South Africa (Apartheid)

Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 29th February 1988.

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Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East 4:15 pm, 29th February 1988

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister, and not the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook).

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs) 4:18 pm, 29th February 1988

I beg to move, That this House strongly condemns the action of the Government of South Africa in effectively banning all peaceful opposition to apartheid by its restriction on the United Democratic Front, Confederation of South African Trade Unions and 16 other organisations dedicated to the ending of apartheid; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to participate constructively in urgent international and Commonwealth action against South Africa including comprehensive economic sanctions. Every day seems to bring its fresh instalment of outrage by the Government of South Africa. Already today we have heard of the arrest of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and of other Church leaders who were bundled into a police car, having been arrested while on the steps of St. George's cathedral and while praying on the pavement after a gathering of Church leaders inside the cathedral. They were later released, but it is clear that not even senior Church men in South Africa are safe from that apartheid Government.

The debate arises from events of last Wednesday, when issue No. 11,157 of the "South African Government Gazette", published in Pretoria, gave the text of Order No. 334, signed by the Minister of Law and Order. That order stated that banning orders had been placed on 17 organisations, ranging from the Azanian People's Organisation to the Western Cape Civic Association and including the largest organisation in which black people in South Africa associate peacefully to oppose apartheid, the United Democratic Front. No one has alleged that any of those organisations stands for violence or has been involved in violence. The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and his Minister of State have pointed out that they are all non-violent, and that is repeated in the Government's amendment to our motion.

To take one example, the Detainees Parents Support Committee has the purely humanitarian objective of monitoring detention without trial. It has specialised in publicising the detention of children under the state of emergency and, as we know, thousands of children—some as young as nine — have been detained by the South African apartheid Government. Under last week's banning order, all these organisations are prohibited from carrying on or performing any activities or acts whatsoever. George Orwell himself could not have put it more chillingly. Furthermore, Order No. 335 from the Ministry of Law and Order places a series of prohibitions on the other South African black organisation that has mass support, the Congress of South African Trade Unions. These prohibitions include a ban on appeals or demands for the release from detention of a prisoner or prisoners belonging to a category of prisoners and encouraging or inciting among members of the public … to commemorate the death of a person or persons belonging to a category of persons". Those are both now illegitimate acts by CSATU.

Restriction orders have been served on a number of persons. Who they are is not known officially, since a spokesman of the Ministry of Law and Order announced that the names of those sought would not be made public. He did reveal that 18 restriction orders had been signed by President P. W. Botha. However, it is known that those affected include Mrs. Albertina Sisulu, co-president of the UDF. It seems that she is confined to her home between the hours of 6pm and 5am and may not leave the district of Johannesburg without police permission. Also the subject of a restriction order is Mr. Archie Gumede, another co-president of the UDF, who is specifically prohibited from talking to the news media and from preparing, compiling or transmitting any matter for publication. It is reported that recently the main activities or Mrs. Sisulu and Mr. Gumede have been to try to negotiate an end to violence. They are both now prevented from seeking a peaceful solution to South Africa's problems.

Already South Africa is not only a racially discriminatory and authoritarian society, but a gagged society. It is illegal in that benighted country not only to call for the release of detainees, but even to publish the names of detainees or to state that anyone has been detained.

The Ministry of Law and Order orders of 24 February put an end to the activities of all organisations that oppose apartheid in a non-violent way. The Prime Minister, in her statement to the House after the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at Vancouver, said: the momentum for change must come from within South Africa itself."—[Official Report, 22 October 1987; Vol. 120, c. 921.] How is such a momentum possible when the Government's amendment points out that advocates of a peaceful change have been suppressed?

So far, only the Churches have escaped banning orders. Only clergymen have still been able to speak out in South Africa, as they did courageously in special services yesterday and as they sought to do today. How far they will be able to go in speaking out is in doubt, following today's outrageous arrest of Archbishop Tutu, Dr. Allan Boesak and the Rev. Peter Storey, leader of the Methodist Church, among others. It is significant that those senior Church leaders were arrested for taking part in a march whereas on Saturday South African police stood by when the Nazi anti-semitic and anti-black resistance movement breached the emergency regulations with a march through Pretoria and when those conducting the march handed over a petition, the police helpfully accepted it. That is the contrast that we now see.

Dr. Allan Boesak, the Coloured Reform Church leader, has said of these latest Government restrictions: Every single peaceful action we can take has now been criminalised. His arrest today proves the accuracy of his words. Frank Chikane, the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, has said: If more and more people resort to violence, we are going to find difficulty in saying, 'You must not do it because there is still space for protest', while that space is being closed daily. It was closed even further today. As the voices of nonviolence are silenced, it must be said that the Government of South Africa have set the stage for bloodshed and that any bloodshed from now on will be entirely the responsibility of P. W. Botha and his gang.

This latest twist in the spiral of totalitarianism in South Africa has been greeted with revulsion. Members of this Government have joined in. The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has said that he is "shocked and saddened" and, no doubt, in a little while he will favour us with further verbs of outrage accompanied possibly by various eleemosynary adverbs. The Minister of State, in a somewhat incoherent interview on "Newsnight" last Wednesday, said that she was worried out of her mind. I have no doubt that both are absolutely sincere in their condemnation of these bannings. The question is: what is to be done in response to them?

On "Newsnight" the Minister of State said: The international community is going to be more harsh in their actions towards South Africa than they've been in the past. Mr. Peter Snow responded: Really? And what are you proposing to do yourselves?"— meaning this Government. The right hon. Lady replied: We shall talk with our partners about what can be done and then, at a loss for any ideas, she simply retreated into saying that apartheid was repugnant and detestable. M r. Snow rather cruelly went on: Oh, you've made that very clear, but what are you going to do about it? … Are you going to take harsh measures? The right hon. Lady then cleared the situation up. She said: I didn't mention harsh measures in that sense". Instead she said that people must be brought round a table. Who should go round the table is not very clear, since anyone from the South African side who might be of any use round a table is either in prison or under a restriction order.

As for the Minister of State, it is true that she spent 10 minutes with the South African ambassador last week, but it is difficult to be sure for which of them it was a bigger waste of time. The fact is that, whatever the decent intentions of Foreign and Commonwealth Ministers and however much they semi-coherently splutter their indignation, any action by Britain against apartheid is effectively sabotaged by the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is the world's most effective and enthusiastic accomplice of apartheid. If hon. Members doubt my word they should accept that of a South African National party Member of Parliament, Mr. André Fourie, who yesterday went on television to defend the latest Government measures in South Africa and, in the course of doing so, stated: We have appreciated the stand taken by the Thatcher Government. That at any rate was both sincere and accurate, for the stand taken by the Prime Minister has been at great pains to obstruct international action against South Africa.

The predicament that we face was summed up starkly in the report published in 1986 by the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group on its mission to South Africa. One of that group was Lord Barber, who was nominated by the Prime Minister. The eminent persons said: We have been forced to conclude that at present there is no genuine intention on the part of the South African Government to dismantle apartheid. What would they have said after last week's grim developments?

They went on: We are convinced that the South African Government is concerned about the adoption of effective economic measures against it … The question is not whether such measures will compel change: it is already the case that their absence, and Pretoria's belief that they need not be feared, defers change". If anyone doubts the fear of sanctions by the South African Government he has only to look at the terms of the prohibition order on the Confederation of South African Trade Unions. This, among other things, bans COSATU from the making of calls on or inciting (i) a person doing business in the Republic, or with persons in the Republic, to disinvest in the Republic or to otherwise cease doing business in the Republic or with persons in the Republic; (ii) the government of another country to institute or apply trade, economic or other punitive measures against the Republic or to sever or restrict diplomatic or other relations with the Republic". If the apartheid Government of President Botha were so unworried about sanctions, they would not ban COSATU from even advocating them or trying to persuade others to be involved in them. If, as the Prime Minister claims, sanctions would have such little effect on apartheid, why do the South African Government go to such trouble to prevent COSATU from even advocating them?

Every time the international community, and especially the Commonwealth, seeks to take action to end apartheid, the Prime Minister takes delight in impeding that action and, by doing so, casts herself in the role of handmaiden of apartheid. She came back from the Commonwealth conference in Nassau in 1985, her eyes bright with exultation as she rejoiced at the way in which she had obstructed sanctions. She was asked whether she had moved. "Just a tiny little bit," she replied, holding her fingers about half an inch apart.

At last year's Commonwealth conference, not only did she obstruct discussion of action against South Africa so that the statement on the programme of action on southern Africa was littered with the humiliating litany "with the exception of Britain", but she put her Press Secretary up to spreading untruths about Canada's trade with South Africa, deliberately based on false and outdated figures, to the extent that the Prime Minister of Australia accused the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of propagating "an abominable lie".

When the African National Congress held a conference against apartheid in Arusha last December, Britain alone of the European Community countries was not officially represented. Even President Reagean sent a representative to the opening ceremony. The conference was filled with contemptuous gossip about the humiliation of the first secretary at the British High Commission in Dar-es-Salaam who, having travelled more than 300 miles to Arusha, was kept hanging round the Mount Meru hotel, waiting for the telephone call that would have allowed him to attend that opening ceremony. He never received that call and had to go back, humiliated, to Dar-es-Salaam while other Western countries were properly represented at ministerial or ambassador level. I myself sat next to the representative of the Finnish embassy, for example, and the Danish ambassador gave an outstanding description of the sanctions that Denmark was imposing.

When, at the beginning of this month, the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers met in Lusaka to discuss not simply sanctions but the next steps against apartheid, Britain's chair was empty.

The Prime Minister claims that she is playing her part by assistance to the front line states. Even if that assistance were substantial, it would not meet the problem. At Arusha, the Minister of Information in the Mozambique Government stated that no amount of aid for the front line states was a substitute for direct action against South Africa, since the latter's aggressive actions made the aid for the front line states necessary in the first place. His opinion was echoed this weekend by Colonel van Dunen, a senior Minister in the Angolan Government, who, I understand, met the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State while he was here. He said, speaking for Angola, Our main problem is the root cause of destabilisation —South Africa". Since South Africa's aggressive actions make the aid for the front line states necessary, it must be pointed out, for example, that aid to Angola is £222,000. Statistics, when analysed, show that bilateral British aid to Angola between 1980 and 1986 had risen to that pitiful level. It had also risen to Mozambique and Zambia, but British aid to Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe has fallen in real terms during this decade.

What is more, Britain's assistance is noticeably less than that of other, much smaller countries. Norway has contributed to Mozambique twice as much aid as Britain since 1980. In 1986 Sweden contributed nearly twice as much aid to the front line states as did Britain. In the period since the front line states formed the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference, the contributions from the Nordic countries have far exceeded that of Britain — nearly double, in fact — and our aggregate contribution since 1980 of £819 million compares with British investment in apartheid South Africa of £6 billion.

That British economic stake in South Africa counts for more with P. W. Botha than all the Foreign Secretary's ineffectual reprimands. We all remember the pointless trip of the Foreign Secretary to South Africa in 1986. When he set off, it was reported that British officials said that Sir Geoffrey was in determined mood, and was ready for plain speaking". I am afraid that the plain speaking was rather like Bottom's unsuccessful efforts to be cast as Thisbe in "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Bottom promised that he would speak in a "monstrous little voice". Thisbe Howe's monstrous little voice failed to charm the South Africans. He was kept hanging around, waiting for a gap in P.W. Botha's diary. He was publicly insulted by Botha and was sent away with a flea in his ear, reduced to admitting, The responses which I have received have not yet enabled me to claim that I have made progress that I would have liked. He can say that again.

It is about time that the Government realised that soft words to the South African Government will be treated with contempt. The only thing to which they pay attention is strong action. This Government's lack of commitment to fighting apartheid is illustrated by the strong line that they take on other issues.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

The right hon. Gentleman talks about strong action, and says that the South African Government only react to strong action. If he is going to advocate sanctions to the House, as the motion suggests, he owes it to us and to the people of South Africa to spell out exactly how he believes that they would work, and whether he believes that they will have an effect in doing what I want to see, which is, bringing the Government of South Africa and their apartheid regime to an end. He has not said anything about that. If he will not do so, he ought to be quiet.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs)

The South African Government believe that sanctions would work, which is why they have prohibited CSATU from advocating them. Sanctions will have an effect on the South African Government, and I shall be coming to that— [Interruption.] One effect the absence of sanctions does not have on Britain is to give us a reputable name throughout the continent of South Africa.

The Government's lack of commitment to fighting apartheid is illustrated by the strong line that they take on other issues. Last month, the Minister of State, the hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor), created a stir when he visited the Gaza strip. When will a Minister stand outside Soweto and tell television cameras, Conditions here are an affront to civilised values … a blot on the face of civilisation"? Last week, all of us who have been involved in the efforts to secure the release from gaol in Iraq of the British prisoner, John Smith, were delighted when he was released after the Prime Minister sent a personal letter to President Sadam Hussein. When will the Prime Minister send a Minister with a personal letter to President Botha pleading for the release of Nelson Mandela?

The Prime Minister has given boosts to Soviet dissidents by receiving Irina Ratushinskaya and Anatol Shcharansky at 10, Downing street. When will she invite Albertina Sisulu and Winnie Mandela to No. 10, Downing street? Such actions would have an enormous impact. They would show the Prime Minister's commitment to the destruction of apartheid. Her failure to take action, either materially through sanctions or symbolically through public moral support for the opponents and victims of apartheid, shows her complete lack of concern at the abomination of apartheid.

In a pathetic interview on "Newsnight", the Minister of State forlornly quoted the pop song, "Give me hope, Joanna, give me hope." It is pointless for the oppressed black people of South Africa to call out, "Give me hope, Margaret Thatcher, give me hope". There is no hope of justice for them from that bleak countenance or from that cold heart. The failure of this Government and that of the United States to take action has allowed the South African Government to feel free to take these latest steps.

We all know why those steps have been taken — a fear of setbacks in this week's two by-elections in the Transvaal and the fear of an organised boycott of the local elections later this year. That is why the prohibition order on CSATU specifically forbids it campaigning.

To boycott or not to take part in an election of a local authority or to commit any other act preventing, frustrating or impeding such an election. Apartheid has become tougher than ever because the South African Government are responding defensively to internal pressure from the far Right. The problem is that there is insufficient countervailing pressure from outside South Africa, and the Prime Minister of this country bears a heavy burden of personal responsibility for that. She decries sanctions against South Africa, but that did not prevent her from taking part in sanctions against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The deciding factor for the Prime Minister is not whether sanctions would work, but her attitude to the regime against whom she has been urged to take sanctions.

Last week's banning orders proved conclusively that a policy of no sanctions has abjectly failed. A policy of sanctions by Britain has not even been tried. It is time to try it, and that must be the message that goes out from this country.

Apartheid is doomed. Black majority rule in South Africa is certain. The real questions are whether apartheid goes sooner or later and whether black majority rule in South Africa is to be achieved by peaceful negotiation or through bloodshed. The Eminent Persons Group warned that only effective action, may offer the last opportunity to avoid what could he the worst blood bath since the 2nd World War. This Government's policies, through the blocking of effective action, make it more likely that that change will come late and that it will come violently. That is a very heavy burden for the Prime Minister to carry.

History is on the side of freedom in South Africa. This Government seek to spit into the wind of change. The Labour party welcomes the inevitable historical process, the culmination of which will bring long-delayed justice to those suffering millions. We speak for all who care about freedom and justice and who hate discrimination. That is why we ask the House to vote for our motion.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey 4:45 pm, 29th February 1988

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'deplores the restrictions announced by the South African Government on 24th February against 18 extra-parliamentary organisations and certain leading opposition figures; calls for the repeal of these measures, which suppress legitimate, peaceful political activity; reaffirms its opposition to punitive economic sanctions and its support for Her Majesty's Government's policy of practical and constructive action in Southern Africa; and calls on the South African Government to take urgent steps to enter into dialogue with free and freely chosen representatives of the black community, with the aim of bringing the repugnant apartheid system to an end and establishing a non-racial, representative system of government'. I begin by expressing my dismay—it is worse than dismay—at the arrogant assumption of a monopoly of virtue by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) when addressing himself to this question. The entire fabric of his speech was founded on the presumption that he, and he alone, and those who think like him, have any insight into the horrors that must be corrected in South Africa. It is founded on a premise of simplicity and injustice to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that will not withstand examination. [HON. MEMBERS: "What will the Government do about it?"] The question of what to do about it is one that vexes us all. I only wish that it was half as simple as Labour Members make it seem.

We must start from the firm proposition that all hon. Members share the view expressed by the right hon. Member for Gorton about the mischief that underlies apartheid. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House on Thursday last week that we condemn the restrictions that were announced by the South African Government last Wednesday against most of the leading extra-parliamentary political groups in South Africa and against certain leading political figures. The Government, through my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, have put their views clearly and forcefully to the South African Government. This debate should start from that premise.

As soon as I heard the news I issued a statement condemning what was happening in South Africa. Last Thursday my right hon. Friend the Minister of State summoned the South African ambassador for the same purpose. Our ambassador in Cape Town has made plain our views to the Government there. However, I should make it plain again that these measures are swingeing and wholly unjustified. They amount to a ban on legitimate peaceful activity by most of those, both black and white, who are working by peaceful means for an end to apartheid—the very apartheid that President Botha has described as outmoded.

The measures follow the imposition of a country wide state of emergency, widespread detention without charge, continued evictions and forced removals and unprecedented curbs on the freedom of the press. They are a step away from dialogue and negotiation. They are a step towards further polarisation and conflict.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I should like to develop my argument for a moment.

As yet we have not received full reports about the incident in which Archbishop Tutu, Dr. Boesak and others were involved this morning, but it seems that that peaceful protest was broken up by police action. In that regard, I should emphasise that we are completely opposed to the suppression of peaceful political activity of that kind.

The measures that have been taken — the House should be clear about the extent of the agreement on this matter—are a recipe for despair among black South Africans, who may well ask what peaceful channels of expression are to be left for the legitimate political aspirations of the black community. The South African Government should think again and move to repeal these measures, not only because they are unjust, but because despair breeds violence. Suppressing the symptoms of a problem does not solve that problem; it only makes it much worse in the longer term.

Opposition Members do not have a monopoly of virtue in their denunciation of apartheid. Let it be absolutely clear that on both sides of the House our judgment is the same. At the heart of all these problems lies the system of apartheid. Our position on that is clear. Apartheid is repugnant. It is a blatant abuse of human rights. [Interruption.] I cannot understand why Opposition Members should be affronted by my statement of the simple facts on which the House is agreed. South Africa is not the only country where there is racial discrimination, but South Africa claims to be a part of Western society and to share Western democratic values. Yet, tragically, South Africa is the only country which has institutionalised racial discrimination at almost every level of society.

It must be acknowledged that until a few months ago we could detect some encouraging signs of reforms by the South African Government. [Interruption.] We must face the facts both ways. Those changes included the ending of job reservation, the recognition of black trade unions, the scrapping of the pass laws and influx controls, increasing provision for black education and the abolition of legislation for petty apartheid. We acknowledged and welcomed those reforms, and we were criticised for that. The tragedy—this view should be supported on both sides of the House—is that we are no longer seeing such progress.

Instead of moving forward, the South African Government now seem to be moving backwards. The basic institutionalised structures of apartheid remain intact. It is that fundamental discrimination that hon. Members on both sides of the House find so abhorrent. That is why we argue so strongly that apartheid must go. It must be replaced by a non-racial, representative system of government.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

The right hon. and learned Gentleman was absolutely right to say that Opposition Members do not have a monopoly of emotional concern about apartheid. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends agree that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is equally opposed to the system of apartheid. I do not question that. However, the Foreign Secretary has not said what effective action Britain is to take. Words will not stop, and have not stopped, Botha from doing what he has done.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I shall come to that directly, and clearly, provided that I am able to do so on the basis of the premise conceded by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), that the feeling of anger against apartheid is shared on both sides of the House.

Let us start honestly. We want to get rid of apartheid. That objective is shared by everyone in the House. Our clear objective is to end apartheid by peaceful means. The question is how we are to do that. We are right to react with feeling to unacceptable acts by the South African Government, but we must temper our response with the realism that will help us to find an answer.

The truth is that only South Africans themselves—all South Africans—can find a solution to their country's problems. Change will come only when South Africans with the power to act are persuaded of the need for action.

Photo of Mr Michael Colvin Mr Michael Colvin , Romsey and Waterside

There seems to be a certain amount of scepticism among Opposition Members as to whether Conservative Members agree with the remarks that my right hon. and learned Friend has just made, expressing his abhorrence of the policy of apartheid. It might be appropriate for my right hon. and learned Friend to invite any Conservative Member who does not share his views to stand up and say so.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I shall come back to the central issue. The House and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister do not need the sneering and patronising advice unjustly offered from the Dispatch Box by the right hon. Member for Gorton. We do not need the unjust attack that he launched on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Now is the time for the South African Government to give full weight to the fact that last Thursday my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, from the Dispatch Box, presented the Government's forceful condemnation of the latest folly of the South African Government.

It cannot be for outsiders to prescribe solutions. It is not the special responsibility of the British Government to end injustice in South Africa. This is not a colonial problem. It is not comparable with Rhodesia. South Africa is an independent, sovereign country. It has been so for many years. But we are right to try to help South Africans meet the challenge. That is why we have made clear the approach that we would commend. All sides must come to understand the need for negotiations. What is needed as a first step is a genuine national dialogue between the South African Government and free and freely chosen leaders of the black community.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Gorton that the most hopeful key so far identified to getting such a process started remains the negotiating concept proposed by the Eminent Persons Group set up at the Nassau Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. That concept is based on initial reciprocal and matching commitments by both sides. One of the things that it calls for is the unbanning of the ANC and other political parties. That is the ironycc—indeed the tragedy—of last week's news, that we are now seeing intensified proscription even of peaceful activity. The proscription of peaceful activity is tantamount to the prescription of violence.

That violence must be our fear: that despair breeds violence. New restrictions can only add to to the seething frustration of the black community. They may well now say that the channels of peaceful opposition are being closed to them, but I have to say that violence is no alternative. Violent struggle would lead only to enormous loss of life on both sides, and it would strengthen support in the white community for repression of this sort. Violence strengthens only those who wish to turn their backs on progress, change and justice.

That is the message that we continue to put to the ANC when we meet it. Of course, we see the ANC as one of the main representative voices of black opposition. It will have to be involved in any negotiations, but I repeat: violence will not advance its cause.

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Devonport

At a time when Archbishop Tutu has shown his condemnation of violence and has been arrested, is this not the moment when the British Government ought to show their condemnation, not just in words, but in actions? If the Foreign Secretary wishes to influence white opinion, why will he not agree at least to the suggestion by the Eminent Persons Group that there should be a mandatory ban on all direct flights to and from South Africa? That, more than any other measure, would bring home to white South Africans how much we condemn the recent action.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I know that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) has been attached to that approach for some time. However, it cannot be distinguished from the general case against punitive economic sanctions. I shall come back to the right hon. Gentleman's point in a moment.

I understand why the events of last week will bring from the House and from elsewhere new calls for punitive economic sanctions. Of course I understand the frustration of those calls for sanctions, but I do not accept that judgment.

Of course these harsh new measures increase our outrage, but the Government's strong and sincere views of sanctions are unchanged. There is no satisfaction or utility in striking out at South Africa unless in doing so we bring the end of apartheid nearer. It is no answer to respond by taking measures that only make things worse.

That is precisely what punitive economic sanctions would do. They would make things worse. Many leading South African opponents of apartheid agree with us on this, and there is independent evidence to support it. The major study produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit is a particularly convincing recent example.

We must not forget — the right hon. Member for Gorton mentioned this—that the black opposition is not the only opposition in South Africa. The rising popularity of the extremists of the extra-parliamentary right is already worrying. They are people who regard President Botha as a dangerous liberal. We have seen them on our television screens in the past couple of days. No one who remembers the 1930s in Germany will have any difficulty in recognising what they portend. Isolation and fear feed that creed of hatred. Nobody should lightly adopt policies that would give it leeway.

Let me look at sanctions as they have been imposed so far. The implementation by some countries of punitive sanctions has had no beneficial effect. Attitudes in South Africa towards genuine negotiations have hardened as a result. The result of the general election on 6 May last year showed that. The latest measures taken last week bear that out. If South Africa is determined to defy the rest of the world, that determination springs in part from the pressure of sanctions.

One other equally unfortunate consequence of sanctions has been the withdrawal from South Africa of about half the American companies that had interests there. What has been the result of that? It has been bargain basement takeovers by South African management, now free from external pressure. Many of the progressive programmes of liberal employment practice in which foreign countries have taken a lead have been discontinued. How has that helped? It has not helped the blacks of South Africa at all. What would be the effect of general punitive sanctions?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would contain himself and listen to the case that is being made against him. I wish that he would give us credit for the sincerity of our position also.

The hon. Member for Walsall, North conceded that he does not doubt the sincerity of my commitment against apartheid. Let us start from that and consider the effect of general punitive sanctions. Let me tell the House our judgment. General punitive sanctions would stiffen the resistance of the South African Government and the majority of the white population to change. They would worsen the cycle of frustration, violence and repression. They would undermine the South African economy. It would become more difficult to keep pace with the rapidly increasing population, never mind improve the living standards of disadvantaged communities. The people who would suffer most would be those whom we are trying to help. Sanctions would undermine further the stability of the region. Many of South Africa's neighbours have precarious economies closely linked to that of South Africa. The losses inflicted on them in economic confrontation would far exceed the capacity of outsiders to help.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I shall give way in a moment.

Those are the reasons why we oppose, and will continue to oppose, punitive sanctions. Punitive sanctions will make it harder for South Africans to come together to work out a more just future. They will prolong apartheid, not destroy it.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Party Chair, Labour Party

My hon. Friends and I do not doubt the sincerity of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's attitudes. We doubt the continuity of his logic. He is saying that tighter, more direct action against South Africa would block the possibility of change. Does he recall that last week unprecedented draconian powers were taken to exclude peaceful organisations, not as evidence of the South African Government's responsiveness to his reasonability, but in response to the neo-Nazi Transvaalers whom they are trying to appease to win a couple of by-elections. In the wildest stretch of his imagination, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that his words of condemnation will induce any form of reasonability in the Botha regime? What will he do?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

There are two answers to the right hon. Gentleman's question. First, because of the position that the right hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members have sought to condemn, condemnation from this Government is likely to be met with more conviction than condemnation from almost any other Government. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have his case both ways. Denunciation and condemnation by this Government make an important impact. In the fullness of time they will make a more important one.

Secondly, how can the right hon. Gentleman argue that the sanctions that have been imposed by many other countries are having any effect at all if the South African Government are responding in such a way? The fact is that —this is the entire burden of the experience that we all share—additional measures of that kind being taken in that way will only fortify the resistance of the South African Government and entrench the attitudes that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to oppose. They will prolong apartheid, not replace it.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs)

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right in saying that sanctions and actions of that kind will only fortify the South African Government and their present policies, why have the South African Government banned the Confederation of South African Trade Unions from advocating sanctions? If sanctions did not bother them, surely it would not bother them if sanctions were advocated. They fear sanctions, provided that they are imposed effectively.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

The right hon. Gentleman made that point in his speech. Quite frankly, it was not one of his better points. Of course the South African Government would rather live a life free from sanctions, because they represent a range of attitudes to which they have to react. When I was there two years ago, one of the lessons that impressed itself most clearly upon my mind was the determination with which they would react to additional sanctions by strengthening their regime and not doing the opposite. The fact that they do not like them does not mean that they would react as the right hon. Gentleman would wish—far from it.

The regrettable fact that the House and the world have to face is that there is no panacea, no quick fix, and no easy way through. The argument that I have used many times is that there is no place in this immensely difficult, tragic problem for what I call the Jericho school of diplomacy. If it were possible, by blowing a loud trumpet and by taking some dramatic world action, to transform the situation, it might be effective. There is no place for quick action. [Interruption.] It is naive and simplistic for the Opposition to give themselves the luxury of baying at me from the Opposition Front Bench, believing that by so doing they are solving the matter. The latest measures will make the process of change more difficult, but our approach must remain specific and positive.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Surely the Government remember what happened in Austria, Czechoslovakia and other countries, where Governments washed their hands of the matter, believing that by giving way to Hitler they would help to keep the peace. It helped to bring Czechoslovakia, Austria and other countries under Hitler's control. If the Government had stood firm at that time, and not given way, we might not have had the second world war, and the Hitler regime might not have taken control of most of Europe. Is there not a parallel today? If the Government were prepared to stand firm with most other nations and apply sanctions, we would get a different situation in South Africa.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

The hon. Gentleman has made, I hope, the greater part of the speech that he was otherwise going to make. I do not find myself impressed by it. The parallel is in no sense relevant. In the 1930s, between the wars, the United Kingdom were one of many Governments who would have been able, by taking effective action in the face of military advance, to check that threat. If we look at the prospect in South Africa now, the question is not whether we should mobilise worldwide military action. The case has been made that, by mobilising punitive economic sanctions, we can have an effect on what happens there. All the experience so far shows that that will not happen. I only wish that we could find something that would provide the quick answer that the hon. Gentleman wants.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I shall not give way. I must try to bring my speech to a conclusion.

Instead of punishing ordinary South Africans for the sins of a Government in whom they have no say, we shall continue with our major programme of direct assistance to the black community. We are taking a lead in helping to educate black South Africans to leave behind the difficult present and to progress towards a better future.

Despite what the right hon. Member for Gorton said, Britain is among the leaders in its programmes of economic and security assistance to the neighbouring states. We are working effectively to reduce the economic and transport dependence of the region on South Africa. Our activity in this area is widely recognised and welcomed elsewhere in Africa and, in the long run, it will be crucial.

Above all, we must keep working to help political progress in South Africa. Whatever the South African Government may do—this is the important fact—even today many South Africans on all sides are showing themselves more receptive to new ideas. We have a role in pressing the case for change—

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I am sorry. I said not now.

We have a role in urging a case for co-operation among the communities. We do that through the important work of our embassy and our ambassador in South Africa. We shall continue to press our case direct with the South African Government. We shall continue to stress the urgent need for fundamental change. We shall denounce actions that serve only to make things worse. Last week's measures are only the latest example of the South African Government's folly.

In all those ways, there is an important job to be done, not only in London, but by our ambassador on the spot in South Africa. We shall continue to take every opportunity to make known our opposition to actions that infringe the sovereignty of neighbouring countries or further destabilise the region. We shall certainly call for a peaceful settlement in Angola and Namibia, through the withdrawal of all foreign forces in the region. Above all, we shall continue to press for the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners and for an end to the ban on the African National Congress and other political parties, in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides.

I invite the House to reject and condemn the latest restrictions imposed by the South African Government. I certainly invite the House to join Her Majesty's Government in urging the South African Government to repeal the measures before further harm is done. I invite the House to accept that the task of promoting peaceful change is a long and arduous one. There is no simple shortcut such as is commended by the Opposition. We will not shirk that task, nor will we make it more difficult by imposing punitive sanctions that can only make matters worse. We shall continue our constructive, practical policies, which are designed to help, not hinder, black South Africans, and to bring apartheid to an end as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel Leader of the Liberal Party 5:12 pm, 29th February 1988

The Foreign Secretary asked the House to accept the sincerity of his commitment against apartheid. I certainly accept it, but we are entitled to ask him to accept that many of us are increasingly worried—he should be, as the person charged with the conduct of our foreign policy —about the tarnished reputation of Britain, not just in the House and in black Africa but round the world, at the appearance of a lackadaisical, do-nothing approach by this Administration to the apartheid regime. Everyone knows that the policy is dictated not by the right hon. and learned Gentleman or his colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but by the Prime Minister. We must bring our condemnation to the attention of the House this afternoon.

The Government devote twice as much energy to denouncing sanctions as they do to denouncing apartheid, and it is noticeable that the most vehement sections of the Prime Minister's statements on the subject are reserved for sanctions rather than apartheid.

The Foreign Secretary came nowhere near to answering the question asked by the Eminent Persons Group in the penultimate paragraph of its trenchant report. It said: The question in front of Heads of government is in our view clear. It is not whether such measures"— sanctions— will compel change; it is already the case that their absence and Pretoria's belief that they need not be feared, defers change. Is the Commonwealth to stand by and allow the cycle of violence to spiral? Or will it take concerted action of an effective kind? The British Government have persistently declined to answer that question.

At this year's Commonwealth conference, President Kaunda of Zambia, speaking on behalf of 48 of the 49 members of the Commonwealth, said that they had to accept Britain's right to be wrong. The House regards it as humiliating that other members of the Commonwealth must accept Britain's right to be wrong. Why cannot Britain join other countries in being right on this issue and in being willing to take effective action?

Sources other than those quoted by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) have praised the Prime Minister's stance on apartheid. After the Vancouver conference, the pro-Government Johannesburg daily newspaper The Citizen devoted an entire page to an editorial on the Prime Minister's stand at Vancouver and applauded her publicly. The Government, and especially the Prime Minister, stand charged and convicted of giving aid and comfort to the Botha regime at every turn.

This weekend, I met the Norwegian Prime Minister in Oslo. I discovered that when the Prime Minister visited Norway a little time ago she spent much of her lime lecturing — again with vehemence — members of the Norwegian Government on the wrongheadedness of their approach to South Africa. Everywhere she goes, she uses that argument, and everywhere she goes, she is in the wrong.

We should examine carefully the measures that have been promulgated by the South African Government. Some of them, which were published on 24 February in the Government Gazette by the Ministry of Law and Order, would be laughable if they were not so serious. The Congress of South African Trade Unions is banned from the stirring-up, by way of publicity campaigns, of opposition among members of the public … to … the detention of a person, or of persons belonging to a category of persons. That is a sweeping promulgation, It is forbidden to commemorate or celebrate an event in the history of an organisation … which is of some importance or other to such organisation. It is also forbidden to engage in any interference in or meddling with … the affairs or functions of a local authority. Our Prime Minister would stand to be convicted under that item if she lived in South Africa. That shows the flavour of the sweeping measures that have been taken against organisations that were trying to do what the Foreign Secretary so approves of: to secure change in South Africa by peaceful means.

The Government amendment talks about practical and constructive action in Southern Africa. That was the thinnest part of the Secretary of State's speech. I pay tribute to the work of the aid and education programmes, but what practical constructive action are the Government taking to help to end apartheid? The answer is none. Earlier this month, the other Commonwealth Foreign Ministers set up a committee and met in Lusaka. Sadly, Britain was not represented because the Prime Minister decided that we should not take part in the work of the committee. The Foreign Ministers of Canada and Australia were there, together with representatives of some front-line states. They decided to commission a study on the effect of targeted, intensified sanctions—a phrase that I prefer to the one contained in the Opposition motion of "comprehensive sanctions", because I believe that targeted, selective, effective sanctions would be better than generalised, ineffective sanctions, which is what we might get.

At their next meeting, the Foreign Ministers will consider a specific list of sanctions on which some of the items in the EPG report may feature. Their communiqué also said that they would take steps to counter the effects of censorship in South Africa and make sure that the outside world knew what was going on. Will Britain play a part in that? Our absence from those meetings suggests that we are not prepared even to do that.

We should re-examine the list of items in the Nassau communiqué which is republished in the EPG report. On top of that list is the suggestion made a few minutes ago by my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) of ending direct flights to South Africa. If we look at that item alone, it does not meet with the condemnation or criticism that has been levelled at other sanctions. It would not cause mass unemployment in South Africa itself. Moreover, it would have a direct beneficial effect on the economies of the neighbouring front-line states. If every business person and every politician travelling to and from South Africa had to go through one of the front-line states, and international flights were diverted to those states, that could only be beneficial, and would at least be a specific sign of the condemnation of the rest of the world, including this country, of the regime in South Africa.

What has happened instead? There has been the piecemeal withdrawal of airline facilities by individual countries — the Scandinavians have withdrawn theirs, and so have the Americans. What have the British Government done? Not only have we not withdrawn our air services, but British Airways mounted an advertising campaign in South Africa to get business to connect people to American airlines in London. Far from joining in effective sanctions, we are prepared to undermine the efforts of other Governments, who are trying to bring pressure to bear on the South African Government. The Government should look at that again.

Are we proud of the fact that in this country we have already been manufacturing the plastic cards or seals that are to go on the identity passes, to enable the apartheid system to be administered? The Group Areas Act will be made more effective by the fact that those passes are manufactured here.

Many Ministers have lectured the Church on creating a climate of morality in recent times, but the Government have a duty to create a climate of morality on the apartheid issue. What has happened to the Victorian values, when cotton workers in Lancashire were prepared to go without work rather than handle the products of the slave trade? Why do the Government not resurrect such morality and say to firms that they should turn down orders for goods that are directly related to the implementation of the apartheid system? The House is entitled to ask the Government to take that step.

The Lusaka Ministers' meeting set a tone and a trend that we should follow. One of the other items mentioned in their communiqué was tightening up the implementation of the arms embargo and the arms-related materials embargo, to which the Government are bound under the United Nations Security Council resolution. But the Government must also accept some responsibility for the loopholes in that measure that have been allowed. I draw the Government's attention to the fact that as far back as 1983, the then Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was saying that there was no conclusive evidence that the South African embassy in London was involved directly in the breaches of the arms trade embargo, yet subsequently the Foreign Office was made aware of an invoice from a firm in London, which carries on it the official stamp of the South African embassy—it is rubber-stamped. I have a copy of it in my hand. What was done about that? Did the Government summon the ambassador and make it clear that such conduct would not be allowed, or did they say, "Well, we'll let the matter go"—I think that that is the attitude that they took — "the people in the embassy who were engaged in this have been recalled to Pretoria, so nothing more need be done about it."? Again, the Government's attitude was to let issues slide.

A report to the United States Congress by the State Department, which was published in April last year, listed seven countries that are in breach of the arms embargo. Chief among them was the state of Israel, but sadly the United Kingdom is another of the seven countries listed. The report states: Companies in Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Switzerland have on occasion exported articles covered by the embargo without government permission or have engaged in sales to South Africa in the gray area between civilian and military applications. The report was published in April, as I said. In November I asked a series of written questions of the Foreign Office about what had been done on specific allegations of breaches of the embargo on items such as radar equipment. The Minister of State said in reply to three of my questions, on 10 November and 6 November, that the Government were investigating certain allegations that had been made in this connection.

Since then we have heard nothing. It would be nice to hear tonight that action has been taken on those issues. As the United States report says, there is a grey area between military and civilian equipment. On our television screens we used to see Land Rovers, in the days when it was allowed, being used by the South African police and military against civilians. Such items will obviously be used for repressive purposes. It is no use shrugging and saying, "We thought that they were for civilian purposes."

If the Government do not wish to go down the road of extending sanctions in other areas, let them be forthright with the House and report that they are implementing those embargos, as we are duty bound to do, under the United Nations resolution. If the Government fail to do that, they will stand condemned yet again of paying lip service to their opposition to apartheid. What we want is some action.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North 5:26 pm, 29th February 1988

I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me so early in the debate. I apologise to my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench that I shall not be here for the wind-up speeches because I have a speaking engagement in Portsmouth, when I shall speak to a school about South Africa. Opposition Members will be interested to learn that a ballot was taken among the pupils on whom they would like to speak, and I came top.

We have just been treated to a short diatribe from the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), who gave the usual Liberal view and called for somewhat cosy sanctions. I am surprised that he did not endorse the call this weekend by his right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), that the Union Jack should be removed from the South African flag. Only the Liberal party will go along with such petty sanctions. They directly conflict with the views of his trusted and personal friend in South Africa, Mr. Colin Eglin, the leader of the Progressive Federal party, who has called consistently for the Opposition parties in Britain to withdraw their call for sanctions.

We were also treated, inevitably, to the hypocrisy and humbug of the official Opposition Front Bench, for which it has become well noted. Should not the Opposition's words of condemnation of South Africa be voiced at the same time as condemnation of other countries where the basis of human rights is undermined by varied violent means, be it in the Punjab, Sri Lanka or anywhere else? The House might be a little more sympathetic to their arguments if the Opposition did that.

The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) is content, as is his party, to flirt with terrorist organisations such as the African National Congress, to support those who are demonstrating outside the South African embassy in Trafalgar Square, on the basis of intimidation of innocent people walking by, and to put the policy that the Labour party espouses behind violent regimes that are trying to overturn the South African Government. The Opposition have allies in the British Broadcasting Corporation, which never ceases to take any chance—

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

I do not have time to give way.

The BBC never ceases to take any opportunity of putting forward anti-South African propaganda. I feel, and I think many people in this country feel, that the debate is only on the basis of the Opposition trying to wear their heart on their sleeve and take some high moral ground.

I endorse the words of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, who said that the House is sick of hearing such things as the Opposition say, as if they and they only had a conscience or moral obligation—

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

I am sorry, but I do not have time to give way.

The Opposition speak as if they had some sort of moral responsibility for the matter. There are Conservative Members, with many varied views on this subject, who care deeply about the future of South Africa, but understand the situation far more than Opposition Members, with their simplistic view.

The state of affairs is always changing in South Africa, not least because the sanction argument has now been lost. The fact that the Prime Minister's stand has been seen to be right and to be working has been borne out in the past few months. Many of the front-line states that were calling for sanctions against South Africa have now muted that policy. Zimbabwe alone increased its trade with South Africa by some 14 per cent. last year. That is some indication of the dependence of that and other countries on the South African economy, and of how devastating sanctions would be for them—as well as for the people of South Africa for whom those who misguidedly advocate sanctions wish the benefit.

That was brought home recently when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister visited Kenya and Nigeria, where, despite the attempts by parts of the media to suggest that the entire trip would involve the sanctions argument, it seemed to be hardly mentioned. We begin to suspect that even the people in those countries understand that the argument is worthless. Whatever the rhetoric, and whatever measures are taken, the House must understand that—as my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said—the problem will be resolved only by the South Africans themselves. We do not help by condemning as we have done.

Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Before the hon. Gentleman ends his remarks, will he make any whisper of criticism of the measures?

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

I am coming to that.

The position is certainly changing, and I should like to make two small points about it. First, let me refer to the speech made by the state President when he opened Parliament a couple of weeks ago in Cape Town. A certain amount of disappointment was expressed that he had made virtually no reference to the reform process. Those of us who were present perhaps shared that disappointment—

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

No, I will not give way.

If the reforms are to take place, and we all desire that they should, they can take place only on the basis of economic prosperity. That is where the sanctions argument undermines the very principle that it seeks to support. The idea that change can take place in revolutionary circumstances is nonsense. The fact that the South African economy is now suffering, as other western economies have done, means that the country must get its economy right.

The dismantling of apartheid — which I support —costs money. If we want to see the same amount of money spent on the education of black children as is spent on that of white children—and I want to see that—we must understand that that can only come about if the economy is there to support it. It is a fallacy to think otherwise.

The other matter that I wish to discuss is the basis of the latest clampdown. I must say to my right hon. and learned Friend that, were I to be here, I would find it rather difficult to support him in the Lobby tonight on the basis of the Government's amendment. It assumes, as, of course, do the Opposition, that the peaceful protest—the word "peaceful" is in the motion; it is certainly not my word—by the various groups was indeed peaceful, and was indeed political.

Perhaps the House needs to be reminded from time to time that elements in the Opposition parties in South Africa are violent. The ANC has declared that it wishes to see South Africa ungovernable. It wishes to see a military force bring the so-called legitimate regime to its knees. Not all those organisations — hiding, in many instances, behind the respectability of the United Democratic Front — have put forward their protests in a peaceful way. However unpalatable that may be, the House must accept it. The violence, particularly recently, has been in black townships, particularly in the Natal region. It has been black violence. If that is allowed to continue, the structure of even those societies, fragile though they are, is bound to be undermined.

In such circumstances, any Government are bound to discuss possible measures. I am not necessarily saying that the South African Government, heavy-handed though they are, have taken the right action in this case. What we must ask in the House, and what the South Africans are asking, is for the understanding that if we in this country were in the same position, whatever the colour of our Government, we could be faced with a similar policy. It is all too easy to condemn the authorities for placing a ban on those organisations on the assumption, contained in both the motion and the amendment, that they are peaceful organisations.

As my right hon. and learned Friend said, we do not know the full facts of the arrest of Archbishop Tutu, the Rev. Allan Boesak and others today, but they knew the position when they marched from the cathedral towards the Parliament building. They knew full well that they were liable to be arrested. I suggest that Archbishop Tutu, glutton that he is for publicity and for any opportunity to put forward his point of view, probably got himself arrested deliberately, along with several others. We must understand how any other Government must react in such circumstances.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eccles

What about the children?

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

I am drawing my remarks to a conclusion, but I should like to take up the hon. Lady's point. I think that a misnomer is being used in the House. The right hon. Member for Gorton said that thousands of children had been detained under the state of emergency provisions. In fact, no child under the age of 15 has so far been detained. A lot of nonsense has been talked by the Opposition about the number of children who are detained.

We should remember that the crimes committed by those children in the black townships would not have been accepted in this country. Let me tell the hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor) that one 15-year-old is being held after arson was committed at a school— [Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Lady would listen, although she may not want to hear the facts.

The arson was started by a group of children at the school. When one of the children decided that she wished to have nothing to do with the burning down of her classroom, she was hacked to death by the others outside the school. If that is the sort of action that the hon. Lady and her friends wish to support, so be it, but any Government in that position are bound to react by detaining those who perpetrate such crimes.

There is no simplistic solution to the awful problems in South Africa. The country is in a state of emergency, and will remain so while people cannot get to work or to school, cannot play sport and cannot live in relative peace and harmony within the black townships. Hon. Members on both sides of the House who have been there should agree that the state of emergency has brought a relative calm to the areas concerned.

These immense problems need understanding, and—as my right hon. and learned Friend has said — they need time. The simplistic and heartrending arguments from the Opposition are spurious and entirely unhelpful. We must understand the position as if we were in it ourselves, and hope that the South Africans will sort out the problems for themselves.

Photo of Mr Bernie Grant Mr Bernie Grant , Tottenham 5:38 pm, 29th February 1988

The Botha regime once again stands condemned for this latest in a series of atrocities committed against the majority black population in South Africa, and against the black people in Africa generally. We have seen a two-year state of emergency and attacks on the front-line states second to none. In Angola, even now, white South African troops are fighting the Angolan army. In Namibia the South African forces continue to occupy the country illegally. We have seen the general destabilisation of southern Africa by the Botha regime.

This latest action is extremely serious. I am surprised that the Government, who are fond of taking hard action, cannot bring themselves to take any action against the South African Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) mentioned some of the 17 organisations that have been banned by this latest decree. They include the Detainees' Parents Support Committee, which looks after the interests of children and detainees and monitors how the South African Government deals with them. It issued a press release on 24 February, which said: This attempt to silence the legitimate voices of opposition to apartheid is yet another example of the Government's aggressively confrontational attitude and their refusal to attempt to negotiate with the leaders and organisations which represent the majority of South Africans. Furthermore the DPSC believes that the restrictions placed on 17 organisations are ultra vires and that the Government is not empowered to issue these restrictions. The DPSC is a welfare and service organisation. We are baffled as to how we can be a threat to public safety. We are however proud of our record in exposing state repression and bringing to public scrutiny the excesses and abuses of the security police. In a Radio 4 interview late last week, a person whom I believe to be the deputy ambassador at the South African embassy, when asked about the support committee, said that it was giving wrong information to the Western world and distorting the South African Government's position. Presumably that is enough of a crime for the committee to be stopped from taking any political action. Indeed, it is presumably enough to stop it from taking any action. That is not on. It is a disgrace. The Botha regime is attempting to emasculate such organisations. It is attempting to stop them from taking any meaningful political action. It is trying to turn them into merely administrative organisations.

We must reflect on the fact that some organisations have not been banned. I am not, of course, suggesting that they should be banned. I refer to the white-led civil rights organisation, Black Sash. White anti-apartheid groups are not banned.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

Inkatha was not banned.

Photo of Mr Bernie Grant Mr Bernie Grant , Tottenham

My hon. Friend is right. Why has Inkatha not been banned? The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) talked about black on black violence. He regularly throws that example in the face of the opponents of apartheid. He is effectively arguing that black people are fighting among themselves so we cannot really give them any position of authority. The argument is clearly nonsense.

Photo of Mr Bernie Grant Mr Bernie Grant , Tottenham

The so-called black on black violence is really black on white violence, because behind Inkatha are the police and the Botha regime. The Botha regime needs people such as Chief Buthelezi to ensure that its racist and apartheid regime continues. It is a fact that when about 430 black people have been killed, the majority by Inkatha, the police have stood aside and let it happen. They have taken no action against Buthelezi and Inkatha because they know that Inkatha is doing a job for the regime.

The United Democratic Front has been banned. It is well known that Archie Gumede and Albertina Sisulu were negotiating about violence in Natal province. It was rumoured that people were beginning to reach some sort of accommodation. We are not a million miles away from the truth if we believe that the violence against black people in Pietermaritzburg could have been stopped. By banning the UDF, the South African Government have automatically removed half the components of the peace negotiations. Because Inkatha has not been banned, it can continue its terrorism on people in the area. We must get behind the so-called black on black violence and find out who is responsible and who stands to gain. The only people who stand to gain are in the Botha regime.

Other things have happened. In response to the recent banning orders, Desmond Tutu, who was arrested today, said that he would not be surprised if the black majority turned to violence. He said: We have nothing to show for our non-violent approaches … if violence erupts what will be surprising is that it has taken so long. There is much in that. His sentiments are similar to those of the Eminent Persons Group. I am therefore surprised when the Foreign Secretary comes here and still talks about the peaceful road. The peaceful road leads nowhere. Everybody knows that. Even Gavin Relly, the chairman of the Anglo American Corporation of South Africa, has had something to say about the South African Government's decision. He said that any threats that were posed by the 17 groups should have been dealt with by the courts and that Yesterday's actions are steps away from the rule of law. When we consider the present situation and the British Government's stance, we must ask a few questions. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell me what the Government will do with regard to South Africa. The Foreign Secretary says that external pressure does not work. He says that it only makes South Africa dig its heels in even deeper. I am surprised that he should say that, because the boycott on sport has forced the South African Government to open up to multiracial sport, even if only to a small extent. The consistent refusal to send sporting teams has forced the South African Government to make sport multiracial at least superficially. It is nonsense to say that external pressure has no effect.

The Foreign Secretary said that sanctions would undermine the stability of the region, but the South African regime has undermined the stability of the region for many years. During two years, 140 villages, 840 schools, 900 rural shops and 200 public health installations in Mozambique have been destroyed by the South African Government or their surrogate forces. Is that not destabilisation? Is it not destabilisation when South African troops use G5 and G6 cannon, which have been supplied from the United States of America through the back door, against troops in Angola? That weapon can hit a target the size of a badminton court from 45 km. Is it not destabilisation when the South African Government and their agents bomb the Limpopo railway line? Is it not destabilisation when the South African Government, contrary to contracts made with the front-line states, refuse, at key intervals, to transport goods?

When the Secretary of State says that sanctions would undermine the stability of the region, he is not being as frank as he should be with the House. He has talked about giving direct assistance to the black community. The Prime Minister has spoken about the great education programme that the British Government have undertaken to help black South Africans. Presumably the right hon. Lady is not aware that the key organisation in South Africa for education, the National Education Crisis Committee, has been banned for some time. Therefore, any minuscule effect that the British Government may have in South Africa is negated because the people who know what sort of education is needed are unable to play a full part in the necessary negotiations.

The Prime Minister has said that the ANC is a terrorist organisation, but she seems to have changed her tune. During the Kenya-Nigeria tour she was reported as saying that the ANC did not represent all black people in South Africa. It appears that there has been a shift in the Prime Minister's opinion. When she came back from Vancouver she was extremely keen on the idea that the ANC was a terrorist organisation: now she says that it does not represent all the black people, but presumably she now accepts that it represents some.

We believe that, without question, the ANC is the major organisation that looks after the interests of black people. My right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton has said that the ANC's standing has been recognised by other Western Governments. We are aware that it has not been fully recognised by the British Government, but we know that the Foreign Office has been speaking to the ANC for some time now, despite what the Prime Minister may say.

I believe that sanctions are important. The black people of South Africa have asked us to impose sanctions, and there can be no greater recommendation for them than that, because those are the people—the residents of the front-line states and of South Africa—who will suffer. Those people have said that they do not mind suffering a bit more if it will assist them, in due course, to get their freedom. If the Government do not accept the view of the majority of black people in South Africa, they are being callous and are not recognising the rights of those people or their ability to speak for themselves. If that is the case, it would appear that the Prime Minister is saying, "I know what is good for you, never mind what you think, and I am going to follow my own path." The Prime Minister has taken such a stand on many other occasions.

When the Minister replies, she must say whether she will recall the British ambassador from Pretoria and seek the withdrawal of European Community ambassadors. In July 1985, after the first state of emergency was declared by the Botha regime, EC ambassadors were recalled. The latest development is much more serious than the 1985 emergency. Therefore, will the right hon. Lady press for the recall of the British and EC ambassadors?

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington 5:54 pm, 29th February 1988

This debate is a charade because our party games mean that our essential unity on this matter is obscured. Indeed, I agree with the Opposition motion apart from the last four words and the Government's amendment is not so dissimilar.

I should draw my right hon. and learned Friend's attention to the fact that the Government amendment makes no mention of the word "Commonwealth", yet it appears in the Opposition motion. I believe that it is a sad and significant thing that, when discussing Africa, the interests of the Commonwealth should be mentioned only in the Labour party motion and be absent from the Conservative Government amendment. Indeed, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary made no mention of that word in his speech. One would have thought that the interests of nearly one third of the world's sovereign states would cause the British Foreign Secretary to have regard to them before discussing South Africa, a country whose policies have serious implications for the Commonwealth.

Today's debate is rather like the debate that we had a year ago when the Government's amendment to the Opposition's motion was distinguished by the fact that the Government used the word "measures" and the Opposition used the word "sanctions". There is no difference in principle between the major parties in the House. We all detest apartheid and we all want to see the emergence of representative government in South Africa, within a democratic system. The only difference is how to secure that objective and what is meant by sanctions as a means of securing it.

Unfortunately, the difference between us appears to be wider because the Government place their emphasis on opposing what are called in the amendment "punitive economic sanctions", and the Opposition place emphasis on "comprehensive economic sanctions." The result of the semantic difference in the wording of the motion and the amendment is that the Government of South Africa believe that the United Kingdom Government support their policies. They do not, but the British Government cannot complain if the world is given such an impression and if, as a result, damage is done to the Commonwealth. The Government do far too little to give the true impression—that we and the British Government detest apartheid and will do all that we practically can to bring it to an end as soon as possible.

What do we mean by sanctions? If, by opposing punitive sanctions, the Government mean only those measures that punish South Africa and their people in a negative way and might defer fundamental constitutional change in South Africa, I agree with them. Comprehensive economic sanctions, as advocated by the Opposition, could be regarded as similarly negative and destructive.

Some sanctions of a symbolic and economic nature already exist. The European Community, the Commonwealth, the United States, other countries and even the British Government have applied a variety of sanctions designed, at one end of the scale, to refrain from assisting the South African Government's policies and, at the other end of the scale, to force the South African Government to come to terms with the majority of their subjects. I must confess that I am in favour of measures at the latter end of the scale. We should consider extending measures, sanctions, initiatives or whatever one may call them that might induce the South African Government to come to terms with the majority of their people. We should consider sanctions that might not do so much economic harm but would be of great significance, nevertheless. For example, we could ban direct flights between South Africa and this country and we could withdraw ambassadors.

The Government cannot maintain their present mild policy towards the South African Government indefinitely. The violence is increasing daily and it has been made worse by internal repression. A doctrine based on the inferiority of one race and enforced by law is bound to result in cruelty, injustice, the use of brute force and misery in all contacts between authority and subjects. Furthermore, the brutality of apartheid at a personal level is bound to sicken people who live in a free society such as ours so that they demand that action be taken to destroy it.

Photo of Mr Michael Grylls Mr Michael Grylls , Surrey North West

My hon. Friend suggests a ban on flights between Britain and South Africa. Is not that rather self-defeating? Do we not want to encourage more contact? How can we have contact without flights? We want to encourage British people to go to South Africa and seek to influence people in South Africa and equally we want South Africans to come here and perhaps be influenced. That is sensible and we have flights to Russia for exactly the same reason.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

My hon. Friend shares a point of view that is sincerely held by a great many Conservative Members. Indeed, 20, 30 or 40 years ago I shared that view. However, as time has passed, I have realised that that is no solution. The South Africans do not want to change. They have no intention of changing. They can be induced to change only by pressure. They will not admire our system or want to share our impressions of the world. To a certain extent, I agree with my hon. Friend, because if Afrikaners could see Africans in a natural free habitat, such as is possible elsewhere in Africa, they would appreciate that it is possible to regard Africans as capable and worthy of taking a share in their government. However, there is a struggle for power in South Africa and I do not believe that those who run the South African Government have any intention of giving way even to the influence that shared communications and an outsider's view of the world might bring.

Apartheid is an affront to civilisation and no African Commonwealth state worth its salt would tolerate indefinitely British inactivity on this issue. Extra sanctions, measures, persuasions and influences are needed to induce the white population of South Africa, which has the vote, to accept fundamental constitutional reforms. Such inducements can include symbolic measures that do not cause grievous economic damage but show that we mean business.

Those who support the Government of South Africa are clearly themselves supported by people with detestable ideas about government and democracy, as has been exhibited by the Nazi-style movements that have grown in strength recently. Such people must not be allowed to think that they have an ally in the United Kingdom. Britain must progressively increase the pressure on South Africa. What is being done at the moment is quite insufficient and will not bring about reform at the pace necessary for that reform to be realistic and successful. If we are to be true to ourselves and our historic role in Africa, we British have no option but to reject the wickedness of the South African Government's policies and do all that we can to change them.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North 6:04 pm, 29th February 1988

The brave speech of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) was a welcome relief from the weasel words that we heard from the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) who acts as an apologist for the South African Government. I have never doubted or denied that some Conservative Members believe that what is happening in South Africa is monstrous and should be ended, but I do not know whether they are in a minority or a majority. It was for those Conservative Members that the hon. Member for Orpington spoke.

I considered the Foreign Secretary's speech pathetic. When I intervened during it, I said that I did not question the fact that the Foreign Secretary was against apartheid. I am sure that he is as much against that system of racial tyranny as are Opposition Members but that is not the issue. We expected, not just condemnation — although that is welcome—of the latest measures in South Africa but to hear what effective action the Government propose to take.

From the Foreign Secretary's speech we could conclude only that the British Government do not intend to take any measures whatever. The Foreign Secretary was pathetic, not because of any personal inadequacies, but simply because he is the Foreign Secretary in a Government headed by a Prime Minister who is determined that under no circumstances should effective economic measures be taken against the South African regime. The real culprit is the Prime Minister.

It is no coincidence that this debate is taking place in Opposition time. I find it difficult to believe that the Government would have found time for a debate following the events in South Africa last week. The Labour party has strenuously opposed the system operating in South Africa. We did so from the very beginning, when the Nationalists took office in 1948. We do not deny or apologise for the fact that we feel strongly and passionately about this subject. It is difficult to think of any subject about which we feel more strongly: just as our predecessors felt as strongly about the slave trade and its awful happenings or the tyranny of Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy in the 1930s.

It was a Labour Government who banned the arms sales to South Africa in the 1960s. In 1967 some members of the Cabinet, particularly the then Foreign Secretary, the late George Brown, wanted to reverse that policy. It quickly became public knowledge. It is said that Cabinet meetings are confidential, but the subject of the meeting in question was soon leaked. Labour Members in their hundreds tabled a motion making it perfectly clear that any reversal of the Government's policy was totally unacceptable. If the Cabinet had gone ahead, we should have voted against the Government in the Lobby, because we considered that to be our responsibility.

On 18 June 1970 Labour lost office. I should remember that election date, as I lost my seat, where I had had a majority of 81. On 6 July the Foreign Secretary, now Lord Home, announced that the Labour Government's ban on arms sales was to be reversed. The Conservative Government could hardly wait to declare that change of policy. It is a good job that the ban on arms sales to South Africa is now the subject of a United Nations Security Council mandatory resolution, and has been since 1977. If it were not, I could almost believe that the Prime Minister would be arguing—as Conservative politicians, including the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who was the Leader of the Opposition, argued in the debate on arms sales in 1967 — that it was right and proper to sell arms to South Africa because other countries would do so if we did not. There is not the slightest evidence to show that the South African authorities take any notice of the criticism levelled at them by Western Governments, including the United Kingdom. It is not words that will shift the rulers in that country.

As we know, at this moment the South African Government are concerned about the challenge from the even more Right-wing in South Africa, such as the Conservative party and the Nazi-inspired Afrikaner Resistance Movement. Botha is concerned that some by-election may be lost. He is far more concerned with appeasing the ultra-nationalists, the Right-wing or the Nazi-inspired movements such as we have seen on the television news, than with international opinion. That is what we have to recognise today.

I accept entirely that sanctions—I want to see them applied — would not bring down the South African Government in a matter of days, weeks or months. I do not challenge that. However, it would weaken and isolate the South African authorities. They are desperately frightened of international sanctions. They do not want them at any price.

Sanctions, moreover, would be a signal to the regime that at long last the international community is taking action and will continue to do so until substantial changes occur in South Africa leading to majority rule. There would also be a second signal to all those in South Africa who oppose the regime, such as the African National Congress and the people it represents, and those in the white and coloured communities who are just as opposed to the system as we are, that at long last Western countries, Britain included, and the EEC are determined to support their campaign and struggle against racial tyranny. No longer would it be simply a matter of words. No longer would it be a matter of condemning the South African Government's actions, as the Foreign Secretary did today, and then washing one's hands of it.

Whenever we debate South Africa, everyone here, with one or two exceptions, such as the hon. Member for Luton, North and one or two others who have not spoken, criticises the apartheid regime. In the main there is condemnation of apartheid. The real divide in the House — this is what I would say to the Foreign Secretary, who has now returned to the Chamber — is between those who criticise what is happening in South Africa but rule out any action against the regime, and Opposition Members, who argue that the South African system is a monstrous racial tyranny modelled on the lines of Hitler's Germany which should be penalised and punished for as long as it refuses to change its ways.

The report of the Eminent Persons Group referred to sanctions. That group was made up of a number of people, including Lord Barber, whose political opinions would be somewhat different from ours on the Labour Benches. The report said: If it comes to the conclusion"— that is the South African authorities— that it would always remain protected from such measures, the process of change in South Africa is unlikely to increase … and the descent into violence would be accelerated. The report went to speak about the Africans and said: If it also comes to believe that the world community will never exercise sufficient effective pressure through other measures in support of their cause, they will have only one option remaining: that of ever-increasing violence. If people are denied their basic rights, have no part to play in the government of their country, are refused the vote and basic civil and democratic rights for one reason only — the colour of their skin — is it surprising that some have come to the conclusion in South Africa that violence should occur?

The Prime Minister said that the ANC is a terrorist organisation almost on the lines of the IRA. That only helps the IRA. No one in Northern Ireland is denied the right to put forward a point of view, however Republican he or she may be. There is no reason and no excuse for terrorism in Northern Ireland. In South Africa it is not terrorism, but violent struggle by people who are denied their rights. Therefore, to slander the ANC is to help the IRA and other terrorist organisations. It is to slander an organisation which came into being in 1912 and which until 1960 said that under no circumstances would violence be used. It was only at the time of Sharpeville that it came to the conclusion that there was no alternative.

We are right to have this debate. I saw the remarkable film "Cry Freedom", as I am sure did some of my hon. Friends. It was moving in many ways. In my view—I am not a professional critic—the most effective moment was the end, when the credits went up and we saw the names of all the people who over the past 10 or 15 years had been murdered in detention. That is an illustration of what is happening in South Africa today. I trust that this debate will be one of many to come.

The message from Labour Members—not from the Conservative Government—to all those in South Africa opposed to the regime, whether black, white or coloured, is, "We are on your side. Everything we can do, we will do. Your struggle is a just one. You are right to demand freedom and we want to do everything in our power to ensure that freedom and liberation come to South Africa."

Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East 6:16 pm, 29th February 1988

Many of us share the passion that was displayed at the end of the speech of the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). My remarks will be brief because many other hon. Members want to speak in this short debate.

I am sure that the support that the ANC receives in South Africa is considerably higher than that which can be claimed by the South African Government—the Pretoria regime. In fact, the measurement of election figures in recent elections shows that the Pretoria regime governs on the basis of support from about 7 or 8 per cent. of the population. Of course, artificially that is a large percentage of the electorate because the electorate is so small. However, if anyone were to ask which of all the panoply of political forces in South Africa has the greatest legitimacy, I would unequivocally and unhesitatingly say that the ANC has greater legitimacy as a political force and as a component in the future government of South Africa, along with other entities and components that negotiations may bring about.

The ANC is a constructive force for future peace but it is trapped by the vicious and evil nature of the Pretoria regime. Some people, rightly excluding my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), who knows so much about South Africa, are tempted to think that the Pretoria regime is prepared to compromise and indulge in real reforms. I hope that they will allow those illusions and naive beliefs to be dispelled. There have been no reforms beyond the wholly artificial and transparent idea of racial mixing and sexual relations between peoples. The Act preventing that has been repealed. However, there have been no other reforms. Even the old passes have been replaced with new ones. They may look more modern, more acceptable and more sophisticated but the intention behind them is the same: to keep the population separated.

In all measurements of world history it is a detestable and wicked regime that has to be removed. I am glad that Opposition Members have acknowledged that they have no monopoly of virtue on the matter. Conservative Members also feel that that has to be done. Inevitably, because South Africa is a sovereign country, it has to be done by the population concerned, however hopeless we may feel the position is after having seen the latest incredible and stupid measures of that totally evil Government who are trying once again to clamp down on legitimate and peaceful political protests and actions. We have to ask ourselves how things will work out.

I share the genuine, honest and sincere reservations about sanctions held by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. I believe that Pretoria is the sort of regime that will be forced further and further into isolation. There is the defiant laager mentality. This is a sad thing to say and I wish I did not have to say it, but even with concerted international action from all the Governments involved, out of the woodwork throughout the world—it is a wicked old world—would come all the middle men, the intermediaries, the traders and the entrepreneurs. They would go to Pretoria and say, "We will find every conceivable way of getting over the sanctions problems, do not worry." Therefore, there would be a combination of increasing isolation and political defiance, further measures of repression against the hapless and long-suffering majority black population, the Indians, coloureds and the whites who are courageous enough to stand up against the evil, as well as the mechanisms and entrepreneurial decisions that would allow the South African Government to overcome the problems.

The solution must come from inside. Conservative Members need not apologise for saying that we are not sure how that will happen. I am worried about the situation, as was my right hon. Friend the Minister of State when she referred to the matter in the media during the weekend, after the latest measures had been announced.

An ominous situation is developing. I wonder what the next step will be with this crazy regime which is sufficiently defiant to ignore even rational and sensible opinion in its own country. It ignores the advice of even sensible, pragmatic business men such as Tony Bloom who are now leaving the country. I and other hon. Members regret that very much.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will comment on this, if time allows. Since the latest emergency began in 1984, how many people have been detained and how many murdered in detention by the South African regime? From my vague impression, the figure must be at least several thousand. We do not know, because no figures are published by this lying regime, which never tells the truth, so we have to guess about what is happening, but the total includes children, teenagers and women. How many people have been murdered in detention since the latest emergency began in 1984, let alone since 1976, the period with which Richard Attenborough's film deals? Almost 1,000 schoolchildren were shot in the back as they ran away from the police. That shows the kind of regime which we are discussing. It will use any excuse.

The regime is imposing itself more by its latest series of insane measures. At present, it spared Black Sash, perhaps because it consists of powerful, rich, white ladies who do a wonderful job. I am not grumbling about that, but what will happen when the extra violence which results from the measures ensues? What happens when the regime begins to kill hapless, defenceless black citizens in large numbers? If we are against sanctions, how do we in the Western world and elsewhere react to what is happening, if we are unable to learn about it? The press shackles are so complete. The press have not even tried to bring out the truth of what is happening in the unrest areas. We have the vague impression that things have quietened down. To some extent, that is true, but there is also much more trouble going on, not just in Natal.

When the regime starts to murder large numbers of defenceless black people, how should we react? We may have serious reservations about sanctions. They can be empty gesture politics, although I respect the sincerity of Opposition Members. The Western world and the United Nations will have to decide how to react. In the meantime, allowing for the inherently unsatisfactory nature of this appalling situation, the Government, the European Community, the United Nations and the Commonwealth must do everything in their limited grasp in respect of this sovereign country which will make its own decision and will be defiant unto us all, if it so decides. So far, that has been its indication, almost without exception.

We must decide what we can do and I hope that that will mean, in a limited way, another EC initiative and the sending of yet another mission. Hon. Members may claim that it has not worked before, so why bother to do it again, but attempts must be made to encourage Pretoria to listen to outside suggestions. I am pessimistic about whether the regime will respond, but we must try. In so trying, we continue our constructive policies rather than doing what I now fear we shall do, if we say that sanctions are not practical, cannot be implemented and are not a good idea because they would cause unemployment. I fear that we shall say that we can now do nothing. That is the worst of all our options.

I understand the anxiety of Labour Members. They are entitled to complain about that danger. If we de not do anything the situation will deteriorate into genocide unless the Pretoria regime is checked by internal reforms.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn , Sheffield Central 6:24 pm, 29th February 1988

The last two contributions from the Government Benches have been well thought out speeches and have been taken seriously by a number of Labour Members.

I challenge the basis of the Foreign Secretary's argument. He put to the House his reasons for not taking action. He asked Opposition Members to accept his sincerity about changes in South Africa and the eventual removal of apartheid. I hope, therefore, that he will accept the words of the Eminent Persons Group, of which his noble Friend Lord Barber was a member, when it went to South Africa to assess the position. That is the base line from which we start. The way in which we deal with the mentality inside the institutions of South Africa is important.

Page 132 of the Eminent Persons Group report refers to the group's discussions with the South African Government and says: In the Government's thinking, there were a number of non-negotiables; for example., the concept of group rights—the very basis of the apartheid system—was sacrosanct; the 'homelands' created in furtherance of that concept would not disappear, … the principle of one man one vote in a unitary state was beyond the realm of possibility; the Population Registration Act would continue; and the present Tricameral Constitution which institutionalises racism must be the vehicle for future constitutional reform. From these and other recent developments, we draw the conclusion that while the Government claims to be ready to negotiate, it is in truth not yet prepared to negotiate fundamental change, not to countenance the creation of genuine democratic structures, nor to face the prospect of the end of white domination and white power in the foreseeable future. Its programme of reform does not end apartheid, but seeks to give it a less inhuman face. Its quest is power-sharing, but without surrendering overall white control. I ask the Foreign Secretary to contrast that with the freedom charter and the principles embodied in that charter, which was the product of a delegation of some 3,000 people in 1955. That charter embodies all that any democrat would want in a multiracial society.

That leaves us with two options. The first option is to bring further pressure to bear on South Africa. The measures that the Government agreed to take have not been carried out as was agreed at Nassau. People both inside and outside South Africa call upon us to take that course of action. Every major organisation in South Africa which supports the removal of apartheid is asking for sanctions to be applied to South Africa. Change will come only from within South Africa.

The second option was put forward by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon — to pursue dialogue and constructive engagement. Since the Commonwealth meeting at Nassau in October 1985, a number of actions have flown in the face of international opinion and in the face of the Eminent Persons Group, which was in South Africa when there were incursions and bombing raids into Commonwealth countries.

There has been the imposition of another state of emergency. Media coverage has been banned and a number of journalists expelled. Violence has increased and now includes violence towards children. Any country that tortures or puts its children into prison must be asked whether it has a human Administration. There have been mass arrests of young people. A conference called "Children under apartheid", held in Harare not long ago, referred to the horrific treatment of children. The accounts came not only from young people but from psychiatrists and teachers.

There have been incursions into the front-line states. Only last week there was a further incursion into Angola. Namibia continues to be illegally occupied, in direct opposition to United Nations resolution 435. Just last week 17 organisations, which were clearly non-violent campaigners against the apartheid regime, were banned.

Every step taken by the South African regime is against the type of constructive engagement that the British Government have continued to pursue. It was unfortunate that the Prime Minister in a Government who were a party to an agreement like the Nassau accord tried to rubbish that conference as she came away from it. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said, the right hon. Lady said that Britain had moved a teeny weeny bit. But we have not moved even a teeny weeny bit. In those areas covered by the Nassau accord, we are still supplying Land Rovers, which are patrolling the townships and from which South African police shoot to kill. We are supplying British ICL computers to the South African police and the arms industry. British military radar, provided by Plessey and Marconi, is used to control South African air attacks into neighbouring African states. British oil companies, such as Shell and BP, continue to fuel the apartheid war machine. The Department of Trade and Industry has stepped up its promotion of trade. I have documentation to show that action is being taken in direct contradiction of section 6(c) of the Nassau accord. A letter of 5 January 1988 from the west midlands regional office of the British Overseas Trade Board said: Dear exporter,Forthcoming trade mission to South Africa.1. Following the success of its trade mission in South Africa in November 1987 the United Kingdom-South Africa Trade Association has announced its intentions to mount a second trade mission there in April 1988. Full details are available from Mr. Tim Bird, 45 Great Peter Street, London SW1.2. In addition, management and training specialists will lead a mission to South Africa starting on 23 February 1988. Details are given, The letter continuned: 3. In accordance with the United Kingdom's international commitment neither mission will receive any Government financial support, with an exception; the full range of DTI services is being made available.4. South Africa continues to present many opportunities for British firms especially those in construction and engineering sectors. I do not know whether that is following the Nassau accord to the letter.

Barry Harding, a senior civil servant in the Department of Trade and Industry, writes: South Africa: export assistance available. I fear that the message which my colleagues in the market branch here have endeavoured to put across by visits to regional offices etc has not reached everyone. I would be grateful if you will remind your staff that the Minister for Trade is content for officials to continue with the present policy of offering exports for a normal range of assistance apart from those specifically banned. In practice, this simply means that no financial contribution is presently made towards outward missions or joint ventures to South Africa. All other assistance continues to be available including a useful background briefing note which is updated quarterly and a range of market reports. Those are the words of a leading DTI civil servant, yet we are supposed to be banning trade missions.

I shall pose a series of questions to the Minister. First, will the British Government recall the British ambassador to Pretoria and seek the withdrawal of all European Community ambassadors? Secondly, will the British support the convening of the United Nations Security Council, since it is likely that an emergency debate will take place, probably this week? Will the Government undertake not to use their veto powers if there is a package of sanction measures before the Security Council that are acceptable to other Western countries? Thirdly, will the Government seek from the United Nations Security Council mandatory action to enforce the measures to which they have already agreed—for example, the oil embargo and an embargo on computer exports? It makes no sense for Britain to adopt such measures and then block their universal application.

Fourthly, will the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary go to the meeting of European Community Foreign Ministers this weekend with a positive approach to reach agreement on additional European Community measures? In particular, will he use his influence with the West German and Portuguese Foreign Ministers to get agreement on a ban on coal imports? Fifthly, will the Government follow up the Minister's statement, to which reference has been made many times, on 24 February on "Newsnight"? Will they consult their Commonwealth partners by meeting the Commonwealth Secretary-General and support the convening of a meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers or a meeting of the Commonwealth southern African committee to reach agreement on further measures? There are many other measures that the Government should take to send out the correct signals to South Africa. If the Government are to fulfil the words of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, those words must be backed up by action. Convening meetings of these international institutions is an important step to ensure that the right vibes are sent out to the regime in South Africa.

A number of us have called for the removal of the Union Jack from the South African flag. Someone said that that was fairly symbolic. Because of what we have seen on our television screens this weekend — with the AWB and actions similar to the Nuremberg fiascos when the Fascists were coming to power — many of us are afraid that, unless action is brought by external powers to liberate South Africa, the Nazi symbol of 1988 may be seen clearly at the side of the Union Jack, flying over the South African embassy in this nation. That is unacceptable. History has repeatedly taught us that we cannot run away from the Fascist tendencies. They must be confronted. We do not want to come back in a few years and say, "We told you so." As the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) said, there could be genocide in South Africa. We want positive action and that is what the motion is about. If we let time pass, the predictions in the report of the Eminent Persons Group will come true. We could see the biggest bloodbath since the second world war.

Photo of Mr Michael Knowles Mr Michael Knowles , Nottingham East 6:38 pm, 29th February 1988

I share the fears of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn), yet I believe that in part we have trapped ourselves into our present position. Our mistake has been to keep only to a stick policy. We have not had a stick and carrot policy towards South Africa; we have just kept on trying to use the stick. I have said, as have other hon. Members, that we should have offered investment in southern Africa as a whole, especially in education, on the basis of a second Marshall plan, yet that has not happened. All that we have sought to use is the stick as a policy to try to drive the South African Government in the direction that we want them to go.

The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) made a point about black against black violence. One could say that that is perhaps a good sign, because people are starting to move towards a realisation that apartheid, in the way that it has been known, is passing and forces are starting to move to fresh positions in search of power. There is a power struggle between the African National Congress and the United Democratic Front and Inkatha, and that is not surprising. If one takes the UDF and the ANC as being roughly lined up with the Xhosa nation it is hardly surprising at all, but it could be taken as a sign that things are advancing rather than going backward.

It is probably true of us all in all situations that we are trapped in our own beliefs and what we want to come true we work backwards towards. The thing that worries me is that South Africa is the regional superpower. It dominates southern Africa in a way that we in the United Kingdom seem not to understand. If we take South Africa in relation to Africa as a whole, with 4 per cent. of Africa's territory, South Africa consumes 60 per cent. of the continent's electricity, produces 66 per cent of its steel, is responsible for 40 per cent, of industrial production, and so on. It is a massive regional superpower and dominates the area. This must be taken into account.

It means that if sanctions become really effective they will hit not only South Africa but every neighbouring state as well, and probably with interest. South Africa will make sure that it passes the effect on.

Another worrying suggestion made earlier in the debate was that we should end direct flights to South Africa. This is fine as a gesture, and one takes it on board, but the net effect will be that Swissair will do very well, because all that people will do is fly to Switzerland and trans-ship. The same has happened in the United States. People fly to London. Unless one can be certain of the outcome, it is a dangerous game to play.

The whole sanctions argument is riddled with hypocrisy. For example, 46 out of the 50 members of the Organisation for African Unity trade with South Africa. France suddenly advocated a ban on trading in nuclear power with South Africa — after it had sold a power station to Johannesburg, of course. Australia is in favour of a sanction on coal exports from South Africa. What a surprise. It is in the business itself.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

The hon. Gentleman was speaking a little while ago about the problems of travel to South Africa. Will he tell the House what method of travel he used to go to South Africa when he went out on trips spondored by the South African Government?

Photo of Mr Michael Knowles Mr Michael Knowles , Nottingham East

A flight from London to Johannesburg.

Photo of Mr Michael Knowles Mr Michael Knowles , Nottingham East

Bophuthatswana. It is all in the declaration. I am not quite sure of the point of the question, because all that hon. Members need do is look up the Register of Members' Interests and they will find it all declared there.

A point was made about the oil embargo—

Photo of Mr Martin Brandon-Bravo Mr Martin Brandon-Bravo , Nottingham South

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is better to have gone there and seen for oneself than to sit sometimes on the Opposition Benches, never having been within 10,000 miles of the place?

Photo of Mr Michael Knowles Mr Michael Knowles , Nottingham East

Yes.

A point was made about the oil embargo. The truth is that the oil embargo does not work. When I was in Durban I saw that it was a case of wall-to-wall tankers, and petrol was half the price that it is in this country. And that is supposed to be with an oil embargo. The arms embargo merely served to create a South African arms industry. The point was made earlier — again by the hon. Member for Tottenham, I think — about long-range guns. He thought that they were American. They were not. They were indigenous South African guns. They were G6 and G7 long-range guns using the special steels that had to be made to give them that range. That is the nature of the economy that one is dealing with.

We must also understand the nature of the people that we are dealing with, the Afrikaners. It is not easy to push them around. We should know; we have tried. We fought two wars with them, and eventually won, but we must remember the cost of our winning. We put their people in concentration camps and slaughtered one third of them. We had to do that to beat them. We then spent 40 years trying to crush them as a people, and we failed.

It is a serious situation and there is a danger of massive bloodshed. Let us not kid ourselves that there is a quick, easy solution, because there is not. We must look at it with a cold, hard eye.

Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 6:46 pm, 29th February 1988

There have been two major themes in the debate, one an analysis of the events of the past weeks in South Africa and the other the appropriate response, if any, from Her Majesty's Government.

On the analysis of the events of the past week there has, with the exception of the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), been a substantial degree of consensus on both sides of the House. As regards the response from the Government side, I notice that the Prime Minister last Thursday called the action a setback for the possibility of peaceful negotiations. The very idea of a setback is an illusion. It implies there has been steady progress, marred only by this step backwards with the events of the past week. Had the Prime Minister listened to what must come from her own people in Pretoria, she must surely have been aware of not only the emergency and the detentions over the past two years, but the well trailed restrictions on universities, the proposals for trade union reform and the increasing pressure on the United Democratic Front since its formation in 1983, which has meant that only three members of the executive of the UDF were at large— neither on the run nor in detention—last week. It can hardly be designated as a setback, therefore, but as something which has been well trailed and which is very consistent with the recent trend of South African policy: the United Democratic Front and the Congress of South African Trade Unions are seen as key barriers to the maintenance of white minority rule, which is what Botha and his Government are all about.

Yet the Prime Minister persists in calling it a setback as if she could claim, against the evidence, that it is a process of reform, and that constructive engagement, more trade being pushed by the Government—as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) said earlier—and more contact with the South Africans can somehow bring them into the 20th century and the real world.

Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I know a number of those directly concerned in the repressive measures last week, and a number are known to the Minister of State. I think of Archie Gumede, whom I first met when he sought sanctuary in our consulate in Durban. He is co-president of the United Democratic Front. I had several lengthy discussions with him at that time and I gained a pretty good view of his judgment and political disposition. I was amazed at his moderation. I certainly would not have been as moderate, given the repression to which his people have been subjected. It is well known that in the past weeks he has been involved in a search for reconciliation, in Pietermaritzburg, of the conflicts between the UDF and Inkatha. That man's voice is temporarily stilled.

I spoke from the same platform in Durban as Albertina Sisulu. Her husband is on Robben Island. Her son, Zwelakhe, is a fearless journalist, but he has been in detention for over a year. Albertina Sisulu has been a force for peace and reconciliation not only in the Ford dispute but during the recent troubles in the Cape, but now she has been banned.

With regard to the white population we think of Max and Audrey Coleman from the white business community in South Africa. They became politicised when their sons were detained by the South African Government. They formed, with others, the detainees' parents' support committee. That committee, to some extent, has been funded by the European Community and other worthy organisations in the west. It is the equivalent of the Sakharovs and other groups within the Soviet Union. The Prime Minister would be keen to see Sakharov, but she would not deign to see the Colemans or others in South Africa.

Who is left to talk to when the voices of moderation are stilled? The people who have sought the ways of avoiding violence have been pushed to one side by Botha and his henchmen. Surely the message from Mr. Botha is that he has no serious interest in fundamental change. His only interest is in winning by-elections by the votes of the minority white electorate. He is ready to ignore outside opinion—the special relationship that he has with our Prime Minister.

What should be the appropriate response of the British Government to the new measures of repression that have stifled the voices of peaceful people and leaders within South Africa? We believe that—this was shown by the Foreign Secretary earlier—the likely response will be the same as before. All the signals given by the Government will be of comfort to Pretoria and of despair to world opinion, the Commonwealth and the United Nations. Among such signals we have already excluded ourselves from the Commonwealth Committee of Foreign Ministers, which was set up at the Vancouver conference. We were not represented at the meeting in Lusaka at the beginning of this month, even though the terms of reference of that committee were much wider than mere sanctions. The Foreign Secretary looks glum. We know that he was under orders from she who must be obeyed. The Foreign Secretary is a man of more liberal instincts. However, we must pose the question: is there anything that would induce the Foreign Secretary to resign? Perhaps the question answers itself.

As the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) said, there is no mention of the Commonwealth in the Government's amendment, despite the suggestions that were made at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings at Nassau and Vancouver. Was that a mere slip, or is it another illustration that the Commonwealth has been marginalised in foreign policy formulation?

At Nassau we agreed on an oil embargo. Yet at the end of last year the Government refused to co-operate with the United Nations committee that was inquiring into violations of the oil embargo. That was another signal of support to Pretoria. It was a signal that the Government ignores world opinion. The Government have not sent the Minister of State, the hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor), to the townships to make the same sort of remarks that he made in the Gaza strip.

In response to criticism, the Government merely dig more deeply into their bran tub of words of disapproval. The Prime Minister has said that she "condemns" the moves. The Foreign Secretary has said that he is "shocked and saddened." The Minister of State is "dismayed." Words are cheap.

I hope that when the Minister of State replies to the debate she will answer the question that has been asked by Labour Members—have the new measures of repression that the South African Government have taken in the past week led to any reassessment of policy by the Government? Will they change their policy as a result of those events?

The Labour party's policy on sanctions is well known. We believe that under the United Nations and in co-operation with our Commonwealth and EEC partners, comprehensive sanctions should be taken against South Africa. For a start, there should be airline sanctions and a coal boycott, which the Government, in co-operation with the German Government, prevented at the EEC summit.

Even if the Government rule out economic sanctions, there are a series of what the Prime Minister might call "measures" available to them. Without incurring any great cost she can still give clear signals to the white minority Government of South Africa and their supporters that we disapprove of what they are doing. Why do we still have a no-visa agreement with South Africa, which is a relic of the old Commonwealth relationship? Would not the abrogation of that agreement be a clear signal to South Africa of our position? Will we still treat South Africa diplomatically as if it were any other country? Mr. Birt, who is the deputy director-general of the BBC, gave the South African ambassador a guided tour of the BBC last week. No doubt he told him about intimidation from the Government. Will we act in concert with our other European Community partners by downgrading our mission and possibly by removing the ambassador for some time? Even if we claim that our embassy in South Africa is playing a positive role, why cannot our ambassador show solidarity with those individuals and groups that have been banned by going to the UDF offices, by visiting Albertina Sisulu, or by meeting Archie Gumede and others? We believe that such shock treatment may disabuse those in South Africa who believe that they can get away with it because they have the support of the Prime Minister and the Government.

The Prime Minister is in a unique position.

Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The Prime Minister is trusted in white South Africa. If she were to carry out some of the measures that have been suggested it would thus have a disproportionate effect on white opinion — those who currently hold the power in South Africa. The Prime Minister's gestures have given the impression to white South Africans that she is on their side, not that of the majority in that country.

Generations of blacks and progressive people in South Africa will look back with pride at those brave men and women whose voices have been temporarily stilled by the actions of the past week. Equally, generations of British people will look back with shame at a British Government, who at this critical time of test have only confirmed their policy of business as usual with apartheid.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey 6:58 pm, 29th February 1988

No one with any understanding of the need for particiption in society by all races and creeds can suggest that the South African Government's latest actions are anything but a serious further step in the tragic chronicle of repressive action in South Africa. The House, and indeed the whole international community, is at one in roundly condemning these South African actions.

There is no doubt about Britain's position. The House heard my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last Thursday deplore the South African Government's actions. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary issued an immediate condemnation which left no room for doubt about the Government's rejection of repression of whatever kind, but particularly on this scale and of this latest severity.

The action of the South African Government has been condemned here in Britain and all over the world. It has been condemned by business men in South Africa such as Gavin Relly who have been doing their best to bring social and economic reform to black South Africa. Jan Steyn, the chairman of the urban foundation, said only a few days ago that the ability of organisations with strong community support to function is a key factor in determining whether such progress is possible. Referring to the restrictions of last Thursday, 25 February he said: These restrictions will severely hamper this progress. No one is in any doubt that the action of the South African Government is totally repressive.

The British Government's views have been put over most forcibly, in public and in private, to the South African Government, here and in South Africa. We shall see whether they will be effective because there is more to be said. I continue to urge the House to back the Government in our efforts to get the South African Government to withdraw all the restrictions forthwith.

The House can be assured that the South African Government have been left in no doubt of Britain's views on the lasting damage caused by these measures to the prospects for peaceful change.

What then is the way ahead that can bring about the end of apartheid, to which we are committed, and the transition to genuinely non-racial representative government in South Africa? First, let me say that I have not heard a single argument today from the Opposition which suggests that their policies will do anything to improve the tragic situation in South Africa. Maybe their rhetoric assuages their consciences.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

Will the Minister give way instead of reading her speech?

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that some of his colleagues type some of their remarks. As he can see, I have been sitting here typing.

Opposition Members have used rhetoric to assuage their consciences, but that does nothing whatsoever to bring about the major changes necessary to help the black majority into governing in their own country.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. The Minister clearly is not giving way.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

It is impossible not to see the hon. Gentleman with one's eyes, even if one does not intend to give way to him. I particularly regret the narrow interpretation of our responsibilities put forward by the Opposition

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that he must not persist.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

For the Opposition, opposing apartheid seems to mean one thing on ly—sanctions and yet more sanctions. As my right hon. and learned Friend said to the House, punitive economic sanctions are not the answer.

There are more effective ways of contributing to progress and to peaceful change in South Africa than blighting the country's economic development. We can make that contribution at the same time as expressing our total revulsion and rejection of apartheid.

I say to the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) that I do not believe that the events of the past weeks have done anything whatsoever to take us forward with the awful problems of South Africa. The hon. Gentleman may ask for immediate judgments and for changes of course. He may ask for clear signals to the white minority Government. Those signals have been given and will continue to be given. I shall examine all that he said, as I shall examine all reports mentioned in the debate, and no voice will be stilled in condemnation.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

No. I am not giving way.

There are more effective ways, and indeed we shall consider them. I believe that, above all else, we have to maintain the effective contact with all cross-sections of the people of all colours and creeds in South Africa.

Opposition Members have called for the withdrawal of Her Majesty's ambassador and EC ambassadors. That idea may be superficially attractive but would do no good to those in South Africa who are oppressed by the actions of the South African Government, and with whom we must keep in contact.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

Some minutes ago, the Minister asked for constructive suggestions to improve the lot of those who are oppressed in South Africa. She also spoke about relationships between people. Given the mounting evidence of the murder and death squads operated by Chief Buthelezi and Inkatha, will she now announce that the Inkatha office opened last autumn in St. John's Wood will be closed by the Government as a clear signal that when they see terrorist activity they do something about it?

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

The hon. Member's point did not relate to what I was saying. If the hon. Gentleman expects sudden snap judgments such as that to be answered, he is asking the wrong person.

There is an important job to be done on the spot by our ambassador in South Africa. I believe that those who have argued that he should come home have no idea of the range, depth and breadth of the contacts that he makes, nor indeed of what he is doing.

I must say to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) that I shall look at the letters which he cited. The way in which he expressed his speech was interesting and I shall certainly examine the letters.

The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) raised the question of what could be done. I am sad that the right hon. Member is not in his place at the moment, because it is important that we take seriously suggestions made by all hon. Members, if they warrant it. As for the cutting of air links, it would be extremely difficult to achieve an effective ban as it would only give away the air traffic to other nations. To be effective, such a ban would have to be universal and that would be impossible to achieve in today's air transport market. If we are to take up other suggestions, they must do something to affect the awful situation in South Africa and not be impossible to achieve.

I must say to the right hon. Member for Devonport, through Hansard, that those who would be most hurt by such a ban would be those who fly backwards and forwards between Europe and South Africa trying to bring about change. The hard-line Afrikaners who went to that despicable rally on Saturday hardly ever travel outside South Africa. Perhaps if they had travelled outside South Africa they might understand something about the way in which the rest of the world works together and would be in a better position to back up what they say. I doubt whether they would continue to hold such outdated views if they did travel. The people that the House would wish to harm by cutting air links would not be harmed.

The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel) spoke of alleged breaches in arms control that he put to the Foreign Office, and he asked when he would get a reply. I agree that these matters have been extremely difficult to research. We are consulting other Government Departments. I regret that I cannot give him an answer this afternoon, but I insist that those investigations shall be the most thorough possible. I shall reply to the allegations that he sent to my right hon. and learned Friend as soon as possible when I have some assurance of the validity or otherwise of the claims that have been made and of the evidence on which we shall base our reply. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me also about plastic covers for identity cards—the seals for identity cards. The export of transparent plastic covers is not a breach of any British restrictive measure. Uniform identity cards are issued to all South Africans. They are not the equivalent of pass books. The pass laws and the influx control have been abolished.

I was asked further about destabilisation. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary condemned destabilisation by South Africa of neighbouring countries. I reiterate that condemnation. We reject violence from whatever quarter it may come. There is no justification for cross-border violence in the front-line states or in any others. In no way does that detract from out argument that punitive economic sanctions would have a destablising effect in the region. They would have considerable cost for all South Africa's neighbours. We call on the South African Government to desist from destabilisation. For those reasons, we aim to support the front-line states in defence of their borders and, indeed, the transport links that are necessary for them to become economically independent of South Africa.

One of the most positive things that the British Government have done has been to provide aid, aid for black South Africans. I understand what my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Knowles) said.

The students whom we sponsor and will go on sponsoring go alongside the help that we have given to trade unionists. All such aid is designed to assist those in South Africa who can have an influence on the future. We have said many times that the only way in which the problems of apartheid in South Africa will be solved is through dialogue. That dialogue can occur only if people are equipped to combat the false dialogue of members of the South African Government. That is why we wish to support leaders of the black community in our programmes in South Africa and in the front-line states. We are determined not to see the undermining of the economies of front-line states by attacks from over the border. It is in that context that we give £819 million in bilateral aid to the Southern African Development Coordination Conference states together with the multilateral aid from which they benefit.

Without doubt, the steps of recent days are a massive further setback in the search for dialogue. To determine the best way ahead, one must consider most carefully what is happening on the ground in South Africa—another good reason for the efforts of Her Majesty's ambassador in Pretoria. When considering what is to be done, we need to be sure that we take into account the legitimate interests of all concerned—black, white and coloured—in South Africa. That is why informal contacts between South Africans of all races must continue. That is why we shall not influence the South African Government unless we can get them into dialogue. We shall continue to press them to resume the process of legislative reform. We shall continue to implement the restrictive measures against South Africa that we previously agreed to take as a political signal of our earnest determination for progress. There has been, and will be, no let-up in our representations against human rights abuses, in particular — I was asked about this by hon. Members on both sides of the House—detention without charge, torture, and imprisonment of children.

Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey

I shall not give way. I have only a couple of minutes left. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me.

We shall continue to press for the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners and an end to the ban on the ANC and other political parties in the context of the suspension of violence on all sides. We shall continue our practical and financial assistance to black South Africans. We shall continue to oppose the destabilisation that has been conducted by the South African Government.

The positive approach of the Government has no alternative. There is no alternative to patient, determined advocacy and pressure. We shall do all that we can to find an opportunity for constructive mediation whenever it may occur. We shall indeed, with our Commonwealth and European partners, be ready for the time when we might take external initiatives, but for the moment there is none to take.

Sanctions will only worsen the existing situation. Punitive economic sanctions will not improve it. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have united in condemning the latest repressive measures. We share the universally expressed sense of frustration. But thoroughly negative as the developments are, we shall not be forced into action for action's sake, nor into imposing measures that cannot improve an already almost impossible situation.

The end of apartheid will, as one Opposition Member was honest enough to say, take a long time — longer than any of us would wish—but it will come about only from within, by negotiation and dialogue. The Government are determined to help wherever we can. We shall continue to do so until the last vestiges of apartheid have gone and repressive measures are totally repealed.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 209, Noes 265.

Division No. 197][7.15 pm
AYES
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Bradley, Keith
Allen, GrahamBray, Dr Jeremy
Alton, DavidBrown, Gordon (D'mline E)
Anderson, DonaldBrown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterBrown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Armstrong, HilaryBuchan, Norman
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Buckley, George J.
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Caborn, Richard
Barron, KevinCampbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Battle, JohnCampbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Beckett, MargaretCarlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Beith, A. J.Cartwright, John
Benn, Rt Hon TonyClark, Dr David (S Shields)
Bermingham, GeraldClarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Bidwell, SydneyClay, Bob
Blair, TonyClelland, David
Blunkett, DavidClwyd, Mrs Ann
Boateng, PaulCohen, Harry
Boyes, RolandCook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Livingstone, Ken
Corbett, RobinLivsey, Richard
Corbyn, JeremyLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cousins, JimLofthouse, Geoffrey
Cryer, BobMcAllion, John
Cummings, JohnMcAvoy, Thomas
Cunningham, Dr JohnMcCartney, Ian
Dalyell, TarnMacdonald, Calum A.
Darling, AlistairMcFall, John
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)McKelvey, William
Dewar, DonaldMcLeish, Henry
Dixon, DonMaclennan, Robert
Dobson, FrankMcNamara, Kevin
Doran, FrankMcWilliam, John
Douglas, DickMadden, Max
Duffy, A. E. P.Mahon, Mrs Alice
Dunnachie, JimmyMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Eadie, AlexanderMartin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Eastham, KenMartlew, Eric
Evans, John (St Helens N)Maxton, John
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Meacher, Michael
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Meale, Alan
Fatchett, DerekMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Fearn, RonaldMichie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Fisher, MarkMoonie, Dr Lewis
Flannery, MartinMorgan, Rhodri
Flynn, PaulMorley, Elliott
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Foster, DerekMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Foulkes, GeorgeMowlam, Marjorie
Fyfe, MariaMullin, Chris
Galbraith, SamMurphy, Paul
Garrett, John (Norwich South)Nellist, Dave
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)O'Brien, William
Godman, Dr Norman A.O'Neill, Martin
Gould, BryanOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
Graham, ThomasPatchett, Terry
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)Pike, Peter L.
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Prescott, John
Grocott, BrucePrimarolo, Dawn
Hardy, PeterQuin, Ms Joyce
Harman, Ms HarrietRandall, Stuart
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyRedmond, Martin
Haynes, FrankRees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Healey, Rt Hon DenisReid, Dr John
Heffer, Eric S.Richardson, Jo
Henderson, DougRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Hinchliffe, DavidRobertson, George
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Robinson, Geoffrey
Home Robertson, JohnRogers, Allan
Hood, JimmyRooker, Jeff
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Howells, GeraintRowlands, Ted
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)Ruddock, Joan
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Sedgemore, Brian
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Sheerman, Barry
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Illsley, EricShort, Clare
Ingram, AdamSkinner, Dennis
Janner, GrevilleSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
John, BrynmorSmith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Soley, Clive
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)Spearing, Nigel
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)Steel, Rt Hon David
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldSteinberg, Gerry
Kennedy, CharlesStott, Roger
Kinnock, Rt Hon NeilStrang, Gavin
Kirkwood, ArchyStraw, Jack
Lambie, DavidTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Lamond, JamesThomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Leadbitter, TedThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Leighton, RonTurner, Dennis
Lestor, Joan (Eccles)Wall, Pat
Litherland, RobertWallace, James
Walley, JoanWise, Mrs Audrey
Warded, Gareth (Gower)Worthington, Tony
Wareing, Robert N.Young, David (Bolton SE)
Wigley, Dafydd
Williams, Rt Hon AlanTellers for the Ayes:
Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)Mr. Alun Michael and
Wilson, BrianMrs. Llin Golding.
Winnick, David
NOES
Adley, RobertDorrell, Stephen
Alexander, RichardDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelDover, Den
Allason, RupertDunn, Bob
Amery, Rt Hon JulianDurant, Tony
Amess, DavidDykes, Hugh
Amos, AlanEvennett, David
Arbuthnot, JamesFairbairn, Nicholas
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Fallon, Michael
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Farr, Sir John
Ashby, DavidFavell, Tony
Aspinwall, JackFenner, Dame Peggy
Atkins, RobertField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Fookes, Miss Janet
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Forman, Nigel
Baldry, TonyForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Forth, Eric
Batiste, SpencerFox, Sir Marcus
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyFranks, Cecil
Bellingham, HenryFreeman, Roger
Bendall, VivianFrench, Douglas
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Fry, Peter
Benyon, W.Gale, Roger
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnGardiner, George
Blackburn, Dr John G.Garel-Jones, Tristan
Bonsor, Sir NicholasGill, Christopher
Boscawen, Hon RobertGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Boswell, TimGoodhart, Sir Philip
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGoodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Gorst, John
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Gow, Ian
Bowis, JohnGower, Sir Raymond
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesGreenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardGreenway, John (Ryedale)
Brandon-Bravo, MartinGregory, Conal
Brazier, JulianGriffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Bright, GrahamGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Grist, Ian
Browne, John (Winchester)Ground, Patrick
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Grylls, Michael
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickHamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Buck, Sir AntonyHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Budgen, NicholasHanley, Jeremy
Burns, SimonHannam, John
Burt, AlistairHargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Butcher, JohnHargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Butler, ChrisHarris, David
Butterfill, JohnHaselhurst, Alan
Carttiss, MichaelHawkins, Christopher
Cash, WilliamHayes, Jerry
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaHayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Channon, Rt Hon PaulHayward, Robert
Chapman, SydneyHeathcoat-Amory, David
Chope, ChristopherHeddle, John
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Hind, Kenneth
Colvin, MichaelHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Conway, DerekHolt, Richard
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Hordern, Sir Peter
Cope, JohnHowarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Couchman, JamesHowe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Critchley, JulianHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Curry, DavidHughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Davis, David (Boothferry)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Day, StephenHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Devlin, TimIrvine, Michael
Dickens, GeoffreyIrving, Charles
Jack, MichaelPaice, James
Jackson, RobertPatnick, Irvine
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyRaffan, Keith
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Rhodes James, Robert
Jones, Robert B (Herts W)Riddick, Graham
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelRost, Peter
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineRyder, Richard
Key, RobertSainsbury, Hon Tim
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Kirkhope, TimothyShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Knapman, RogerSims, Roger
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Skeet, Sir Trevor
Knowles, MichaelSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Knox, DavidSquire, Robin
Lamont, Rt Hon NormanSteen, Anthony
Lang, IanStern, Michael
Latham, MichaelStevens, Lewis
Lawrence, IvanStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkStewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
Lightbown, DavidStokes, John
Lilley, PeterStradling Thomas, Sir John
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Sumberg, David
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Summerson, Hugo
Lord, MichaelTapsell, Sir Peter
Luce, Rt Hon RichardTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Lyell, Sir NicholasTaylor, John M (Solihull)
McCrindle, RobertTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Macfarlane, Sir NeilTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)Temple-Morris, Peter
Maclean, DavidThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
McLoughlin, PatrickThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Thorne, Neil
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Thurnham, Peter
Madel, DavidTownend, John (Bridlington)
Major, Rt Hon JohnTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Malins, HumfreyTredinnick, David
Mans, KeithTrippier, David
Maples, JohnTwinn, Dr Ian
Marland, PaulVaughan, Sir Gerard
Marlow, TonyWaddington, Rt Hon David
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Walden, George
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Maude, Hon FrancisWaller, Gary
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir PatrickWalters, Dennis
Meyer, Sir AnthonyWard, John
Miller, HalWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Mills, IainWatts, John
Miscampbell, NormanWheeler, John
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Whitney, Ray
Mitchell, David (Hants NW)Widdecombe, Ann
Moate, RogerWiggin, Jerry
Monro, Sir HectorWilkinson, John
Montgomery, Sir FergusWilshire, David
Moore, Rt Hon JohnWinterton, Mrs Ann
Morris, M (N'hampton S)Winterton, Nicholas
Morrison, Hon Sir CharlesWood, Timothy
Moss, MalcolmWoodcock, Mike
Moynihan, Hon ColinYeo, Tim
Mudd, David
Neubert, MichaelTellers for the Noes:
Newton, Rt Hon TonyMr. Alan Howarth and
Nicholls, PatrickMr. Kenneth Carlisle.
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley

Question accordingly negatived.
Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments) and agreed to.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the Main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
Resolved,That this House deplores the restrictions announced by the South African Government on 24th February against 18 extra-parliamentary organisations and certain leading opposition figures; calls for the repeal of these measures, which suppress legitimate, peaceful activity; reaffirms its opposition to punitive economic sanctions and its support for Her Majesty's Government's policy of practical and constructive action in Southern Africa; and calls on the South African Government to take urgent steps to enter into dialogue with free and freely chosen representatives of the black community, with the aim of bringing the repugnant apartheid system to an end and establishing a non-racial, representative system of government.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Given the hollow and unsatisfactory answer by the Minister of State to the question about the Inkatha office in St. John's Wood, and also because of the unfortunate shortness of the previous debate, I give notice that I shall table early-day motions this week naming those who lead the death squads of Inkatha in Natal. I shall raise on the Adjournment of the House the Government's support for that organisation, through continuing to tolerate that office in St. John's Wood.